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Full text of "Carte italiane"

Carte Italiane 




"Nessuna poesia prima di noi 
colla nostra immaginazione senza fili parole 
in libertà vivaaaaAAA il FUTURISMO fi- 
nalmente finalmente finalmente finalmente 



finalmente 



FINALMENTE 



Volume 13 1993-94 

Department of Itallan, UCLA 



CARTE ITALIANE 

A Journal of Italian Studies 



Volume 13 1993-94 

Department of Italian, UCLA 



Editorial Board 

Editor-in-chief. Glenn Lawse 

Associate editor. Gabrielle Lesperance 

Editorial Board. Elena Coda, Elvira DeLurgio, Monica Ercolani, 
Kristin Phillips, Barbara Pinna 

The Editorial Board for Volume 1 3 was consti tuted of graduate students from the 
Department of Italian, UCLA. 

Advisory Board 

Luigi Ballerini, Italian, UCLA 

Franco Betti, Italian, UCLA 

Marga Cottino- Jones, Italian, UCLA 

Lucia Re, Italian, Comparative Literature, UCLA 

Edward Tuttle, Italian, Romance Linguistics, UCLA 

Carte Italiane, edited by the graduate students of the Department of Itahan at UCLA, is pubHshed 
annually under the auspices of the Department of Itahan and is largely ftinded by the UCLA Graduate 
Students Association. Typescripts in Enghsh or Itahan in ali areas of Itahan studies must follow the 
guidelines of the MIA Handbook and be submitted in duphcate and on 3-1/2" diskette by October 1 5, 
1994 to: 

Editor, Carte Italiane 
UCLA Department of Italian 
340 Royce Hall 
405 Hilgard Avenue 
Los Angeles, CA 90024 
Phone:310-825-1940 

Ali articles are indexed in tlie MIA International Bibliography. 

Subscription rates to Carte Italiane are $6.00 for individuai and $8.00 for institutions in US fiinds. 
Overseas subscribers please add $1.00 for shipping. 

Copyright © 1994 by the Regents of the University of California. Ali rights reserved. 

ISSN 0747-9412 



Contents 



Teatro di straniamento in Marinetti e Brecht 
Elena Coda 



Autobiographical Seduction and Futurism 16 

Andrew Bhdges 



SigarO + FIGARO = SFIGARO 34 

Khss Ravetto 



Photography, Futurism and the Representation of Violence 54 

Tod Sabelli 



Futurism's Construction of a Phallic National Identity 64 

Carolyn Daly 



Cover quotation from Zang Tumb Tumb (1914), Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Teoria e 
invenzione futurista, ed. Luciano De Maria (Milan: Mondadori, 1968) 643. 



Teatro di straniamento in Marinetti e Brecht 



Scopo di questo mio saggio è analizzare e paragonare il teatro futurista 
italiano che vide la luce nel primo ventenmo del '900 con il teatro brechtiano di 
pochi armi antecedente.' Ciò che accomuna Marinetti, capo spirituale 
dell'avanguardia storica italiana e Bertolt Brecht, è un attivo interesse per 
l'opera teatrale. Entrambi, riflettendo sulla condizione del teatro contemporaneo 
di tipo naturalistico mettono in evidenza come quest'ultimo, non avendo più 
nulla da proporre, abbia perso la forza di smuovere il pubblico: esso cade infatti 
in uno stato di assoluta passività, si identifica completamente con l'azione 
rappresentata e non è più in grado di assumere un giudizio critico ed oggettivo 
nei riguardi dell'opera d'arte. L'esperienza teatrale non lascia nessuna traccia 
sullo spettatore che esce da teatro senza aver appreso nulla e senza essere stato 
provocato intellettualmente. Il pubblico, sostiene Marinetti nel suo manifesto 
sul teatro sintetico, davanti a queste opere teatrali prolisse, rallentate da analisi 
meticolose, 

è nell'atteggiamento ributtante di un crocchio di sfaccendati che sorseggiano 
la loro angoscia e la loro pietà spiando la lentissima angoscia di un cavallo 
caduto sul selciato. L'applauso-singhiozzo che scoppia, finalmente, libera lo 
stomaco del pubblico da tutto il tempo indigesto che ha ingurgitato.^ 

Allo stesso modo Brecht, nei suoi scritti teatrali sottolinea il valore puramente 
"gastronomico" assunto dall'opera teatrale contemporanea. Il teatro è diventato 
un luogo di puro divertimento in cui il pubblico ipnotizzato da ciò che viene 
rappresentato sulla scena perde ogni capacità critica: 

Precipitatasi fuori da tranvie e ferrovie sotterranee, avida di trasformarsi in 
cera fra le mani dei maghi, gente adulta, temprata e resa inesorabile dalla lotta 
quotidiana per l'esistenza, prende d'assalto i botteghini dei teatri.' 

Nel guardaroba, assieme al cappello, continua Brecht, il pubblico abbandona il 
suo contegno consapevole abituale, per abbandonarsi, "come tanti dormienti," 
agli eventi rappresentati sulla scena. 

Per porre termine a questo stato di cose e rendere nuovamente vitale l'opera 



CARTE ITALIANE 



teatrale bisogna, secondo Marinetti, rompere con la tradizione teatrale vigente 
per creare un'opera in cui lo spettatore mantenga un coinvolgimento attivo. Se 
si leggono i Manifesti del teatro futurista, appare chiara l'intenzione di Marinetti 
di rompere con la tradizione sia del teatro naturalista, che crede di poter 
riprodurre esattamente il momento rappresentato, sia del dramma psicologico 
che vuole analizzare lo sviluppo di uno stato d'animo interiore in tutta la sua 
complessità: 

Abbiamo un profondo schifo del teatro contemporaneo (versi, prosa e musica) 
perché ondeggia stupidamente fra la ricostruzione storica ... e la riproduzione 
fotografica della nostra vita quotidiana; teatro minuzioso, lento, analitico e 
diluito, degno tutt'al più dell'età della lampada a petrolio.'' 

E un po' più avanti, contro il teatro psicologico, ed a favore del Teatro di Varietà 
futurista leggiamo: 

Mentre il Teatro attuale esalta la vita intema, la meditazione professionale, la 
biblioteca, il museo, le lotte monotone della coscienza, le analisi stupide dei 
sentimenti insomma (cose e parole immonde) la "psicologia," il Teatro di 
Varietà esalta l'azione, l'eroismo, . . . l'autorità dell'istinto e della intuizione. 
Alla psicologia, oppone ciò che io chiamo "fisicofollia."' 

Inoltre, il voler tentare di rappresentare degli avvenimenti in modo logico 
e unitario, è del tutto insensato secondo Marinetti ed i futuristi poiché questo non 
accade mai nella realtà, la quale, al contrario, "ci vibra attorno assalendoci con 
raffiche di frammenti di fatti combinati tra loro, incastrati gli uni negli altri, 
confìisi, aggrovigliati, coatizzati."Ml nuovo teatrodeveallora, secondo Marinetti, 
abbandonare "le esigenze della tecnica" che imperano nel teatro "passatista": a 
causa di queste regole fisse, che determinano dettagliatamente tutti gli aspetti 
della rappresentazione teatrale, sostiene Marinetti, il teatro ha perso ogni 
possibilità creativa ed innovativa. 

Similmente, Brecht, nei suoi scritti teatrali condaima la situazione teatrale 
contemporanea: egli isola due stili di recitazione, quello "elevato," "elaborato 
per le grandi opere poetiche" e quello "naturalistico," con cui venivano recitati 
i drammi di tipo realistico. Se questi due modi di fare teatro, hanno avuto una 
loro validità artistica, con l'andar del tempo essi sono tuttavia decaduti ed hanno 
perso la loro forza convincente: 

Della recitazione elevata non rimangono che l'affettazione e l'artificiosità. Io 
schematismo e la leziosaggine: tutti i vizi, insomma, in cui quello stile era 
caduto prima che il naturalismo gli desse il cambio. E del naturalismo della 
grande epoca non restano che l'incoerenza, la mancanza di forma e di fantasia. 



TEATRO DI STRANIAMENTO IN MARINETTI E BRECHT 



che gli erano proprie anche nella sua fase migliore. Bisogna dunque cercare 
nuove vie. . . ? 

D'altra parte Brecht condanna, come già Marinetti, il teatro psicologico che in 
realtà non è in grado, né è interessato a rappresentare la complessità dell'essere 
umano, ma solo a schematizzare tipi generici con cui lo spettatore possa 
identificarsi senza problemi: 

. . . i personaggi principali debbono rimanere generici, affinché lo spettatore 
possa più facilmente identificarsi in essi; le loro caratteristiche debbono 
comunque giustificarsi entro lo stretto ambito in cui chiunque può affermare: 
"Si, è proprio cosi." ... La sola cosa importante per gli spettatori di questi teatri 
è di poter scambiare un mondo contraddittorio contro un mondo armonioso, 
quel mondo che si conosce assai poco contro un mondo che si può sognare.^ 

La frammentazione dell 'opera teatrale già enunciata da Marinetti è riscontrabile 
anche nel teatro brechtiano. I vari elementi che costituiscono l 'opera non devono 
dare adito ad una rappresentazione organica ed unitaria, ma, mantenendo la 
propria autonomia rispetto alla visione totale dell'opera, devono creare un'opera 
inorganica,* con la quale il pubblico non è più in grado di identificarsi: 

Finché opera d'insieme significa che l'insieme è una slavatura, finché cioè si 
tratta di "fondere le diverse arti, tutti i singoli elementi vengono necessariamente 
degradati in ugual misura. . . Nel processo di fusione viene incluso anche lo 
spettatore che fondendosi finisce col rappresentare, nell'insieme, una parte 
passiva. '° 

Brecht e Marinetti ritengono che per ridare vitalità all'opera teatrale sia 
necessario dunque rompere con la tradizione naturalistica che non è più in grado 
di produrre nulla di innovativo, per creare "una forma più scarna e diretta di 
espressione"" con la quale sia possibile risvegliare il senso critico del pubblico 
e stimolarne la reazione. Per smuovere il pubblico dal suo torpore, Marinetti in 
Italia e Brecht in Germania fanno uso di effetti di straniamento che cambiano 
drasticamente il modo di recepire l'opera da parte del pubblico, il quale non può 
più immedesimarsi, come nel caso del teatro borghese precedente, con il dramma 
rappresentato sulla scena, ma è obbligato, al contrario, a mantenere intatto il suo 
senso critico e ad assumere un ruolo attivo e consapevole nei riguardi di ciò che 
gli viene presentato. 

Il concetto basilare di straniamento (ostrananìe) ci è fornito dai formalisti 
russi: Sklovskij, nel suo articolo, "L'Arte come procedimento," definisce lo 
straniamento come un procedimento tecnico attraverso il quale è possibile 
restituire un significato agli oggetu facendoli apparire come nuovi. Egli infatti 



CARTE ITALIANE 



sostiene che la percezione della realtà diventa, nella vita d'ogni giorno, 
automatica e meccanica: oggetti ed eventi non vengono più visti e compresi nel 
loro valore intrinseco, ma vengono riconosciuti solo per i loro tratti più 
superficiali. A causa di questa percezione limitata, "l'oggetto si inaridisce, 
dapprima solo come percezione, ma poi anche nella sua riproduzione."'^ Gli 
oggetti vengono descritti solo attraverso una loro qualità, e vengono recepiti 
dall'utente in modo distratto. In questo modo "la vita scompare trasformandosi 
in nulla," ogrù cosa perde il suo significato ed è come se non fosse mai esistita. 
Per supplire a questa situazione, asserisce Sklovskij, esiste "ciò che si chiama 
arte," il cui scopo è "di trasmettere l'impressione dell'oggetto, come 'visione' e 
non come 'riconoscimento'";'^ il procedimento usato dall'arte per riuscire a 
rendere l 'oggetto visibile nella sua totahtà è il procedimento dello "straniamento," 
attraverso il quale gli oggetti vengono presentati in modo nuovo, come se fossero 
visti per la prima volta. Il linguaggio artistico straniato allora, 

viene creato intenzionalmente per una percezione estratta dall'automatismo, e 
la sua 'visione' è lo scopo stesso dell'autore e viene creata artificiosamente in 
maniera che la percezione vi indugi, e raggiunga la sua forza e durata più alte 
possibili. ...''* 

E' importante sottolineare tuttavia che per Sklovskij ed i formalisti russi "il 
processo percettivo, nell'arte è fine a se stesso":" gli effetti di straniamento 
impiegati in un'opera assumono dunque un valore prettamente formale in 
quanto sono l'unico mezzo attraverso il quale la percezione dell'oggetto artistico 
può avere luogo; il loro scopo è quello di rendere possibile l'opera d'arte, mentre 
vengono ignorate le loro possibili implicazioni extra-testuali. 

Se Marinetti e Brecht fanno ampio uso di effetti di straniamento nelle loro 
opere teatrali, essi, al contrario dei formalisti russi, sottolineano l'importanza 
extra-letteraria di questi espedienti, i quali diventano nelle opere dei due autori 
un mezzo per smuovere la società borghese dei primi decenni del secolo dalla sua 
passività intellettuale.'* Gli effetti di straniamento sono in grado di risvegliare 
il pubblico in quanto, grazie alla loro caratteristica di novità, riescono a produrre 
nello spettatore una sensazione di shock e sorpresa, ed impediscono al pubblico 
di identificarsi con l'opera rappresentata. " Viene così a cadere il "quarto muro" 
che nel teatro tradizionale di tipo aristotelico separava nettamente il pubblico dal 
mondo fittizio rappresentato sulla scena, e gli spettatori, da semplici recipienti, 
diventano parte integrante dell'opera stessa. Bisogna tuttavia notare che, 
nonostante Brecht e i futuristi italiaiù reagiscano al teatro tradizionale usando 
tecniche simili e nonostante entrambi desiderino l'attivo coinvolgimento del 
pubblico, essi, a causa della loro diversa ideologia politico-sociale, producono 
opere teatrali completamente diverse tra di loro. Le tecniche di straniamento 



TEATRO DI STRANIAMENTO IN MARINETTI E BRECHT 



usate dai futuristi risultano nel teatro sintetico, caratterizzato dalla sua brevità 
(una rappresentazione sintetica dura pochi minuti) ed il cui scopo è quello di 
"influenzare guerrescamente l 'anima italiana." '* Il drammaturgo tedesco fa uso 
invece di efifetti di simniamcnio (Verfremdungseffekten) per dar vita ad un teatro 
epico, la cui funzione principale è quella sociale ed in cui il pubblico è coinvolto 
in un processo intellettualmente attivo. D'altra parte là dove Marinetti ed i 
futuristi aspirano, da parte degli spettatori aduna reazione immediata, impulsiva, 
irrazionale e violenta, Brecht sottolinea il valore didattico dell'opera teatrale, la 
quale "avendo principalmente di mira la storicizzazione dei fatti da 
rappresentare"'^ è in grado di dare allo spettatore una "visione complessa" della 
società, mettendo in evidenza i problemi sociali che la affliggono. 

Come sottolina Re nel suo libro Calvino and the Age of Neorealism, lo 
straniamento dei formalisti russi può assumere livelli diversi: da una parte esso 
può rendere "strano" l'oggetto, rappresentandolo in modo inconvenzionale; 
oppure può straniare un dato codice estetico trasgredendo le norme che di solito 
lo definiscono e limitano; infine, un'opera può essere straniata nella sua totalità 
quando vengono messi in evidenza elementi che svelano il suo carattere irreale 
ed illusorio, e diventa quindi impossibile per l'utente considerare l'opera come 
parte della realtà. ^° 

I fiituristi in Italia e Brecht in Germania impiegano nelle loro opere questi 
diversi modi di straniamento. Entrambi, ad esempio, rendono "strano" lo spazio 
scenico facendo uso di una scenografia nuova, non rappresentativa. Contro la 
scenografia tradizionale "intesa come descrizione della realtà apparente, come 
finzione verista del mondo visivo,"^' i futuristi teorizzano una "architettura 
elettromeccanica incolore, potentemente vivificata dalle emanazioni cromatiche 
di una sorgente luminosa. "^^ Lo spazio scenico diventa, grazie a questo nuovo 
uso della luce ed a diversi espedienti tecnici, come l'uso di diapositive, di film, 
e di parti mobili, una rappresentazione artistica astratta che non ha più niente 
a che vedere con la vecchia scena di tipo ibseniano, che dà una rappresentazione 
fedele di uno spazio reale. Anche l'attore viene spesso straniato attraverso l'uso 
di maschere e costumi che lo rendono irriconoscibile. Depero, nei suoi "Appunti 
sul teatro," parla di fari, megafoni e imbuti, i quali devono rimpiazzare occhi, 
bocche ed orecchie degli attori." Il pubblico, non potendo riconoscere 
automaticamente lo spazio rappresentato o le persone che si aggirano sulla 
scena, percepirà lo spettacolo come una novità assoluta, come qualcosa visto per 
la prima volta. 

Allo stesso modo Brecht fa un forte uso dell'apparato tecnico teatrale per 
rendere la rappresentazione "strana" affinché il pubblico non venga "ipnotizzato" 
e assorbito completamente dentro la scena rappresentata. La scenografia, come 
già nel caso dei futuristi italiani, non deve più rappresentare la realtà, ma deve 



CARTE ITALIANE 



apparire estranea al pubblico, in modo che quest'ultimo non ci si adagi ed 
immedesimi. Cosi ad esempio, in Gli Orazi, il sole è rappresentato da una 
lampada portata da un tecnico da una parte all'altra del palcoscenico,^" mentre 
nella commedia Puntila, Matti, il servo di Herr Puntila costruisce con delle sedie 
una montagna, che viene ad essere parte della scenografia." Egli propone anche 
un abbondante uso di mezzi tecnici, come diapositive, film, ed illuminazioni in 
grado di rendere astratta la rappresentazione teatrale. Spesso, come tra gli attori 
del teatro futurista, gli attori brechtiani fanno uso di maschere il cui scopo è 
impedire che lo spettatore si immedesimi con il personaggio rappresentato. 

L'elemento dello stupore e della sorpresa hanno un luogo di rilievo nel teatro 
futurista proprio j)er la loro capacità di straniare non solo l'oggetto rappresentato, 
ma anche il testo teatrale, il quale non si deve più conformare con le leggi che 
definiscono l'opera teatrale tradizionale. Se "l'elemento essenziale dell'opera 
d'arte è la sorpresa," sostiene Marinetti nel suo Manifesto "Il Teatro della 
Sorpresa," allora il valore fondamentale di essa risiede proprio nella sua 
"originalità sorprendente."^* Marinetti esemplifica questo punto facendo notare 
come il famoso quadro "La primavera" del Botticelli abbia perso, attraverso plagi 
ed imitazioni, il suo valore di originalità, in grado di produrre nell'utente una 
sensazione di stupore. Per restituire all'arte, in questo caso all'opera teatrale, il 
proprio valore di novità assoluta, Marinetti propone di far uso di tutti quegli 
espedienti che, risultando nuovi al pubblico, impediranno ad esso di percepire 
il lavoro rappresentato in modo automatico e passivo: 

Il Teatro della Sorpresa contiene oltre a tutte le fisicofollie di un cafie concerto 
futurista con la partecipazione di ginnasti, atleti illusionisti . . . anche 
declamazioni dinamiche e sinottiche di parole in libertà compenetrate di danze, 
poemi paroliberi sceneggiati, discussioni musicali improvvisate tra pianoforti, 
tra pianoforte e canto, libere improvvisazioni dell'orchestra ecc.^^ 

D'altra parte tutti gli elementi tipici dell'espressione teatrale come la luce, 
il suono, la parola e l'azione devono "coi loro prolungamenti misteriosi ed 
inesplicabili nella parte più inesplorata della nostra sensibilità" assumere 
"nuove significazioni."^^ 

Un esempio di questo nuovo tipo di teatro è la sintesi Parole di Remo Chiti 
in cui una folla arrabbiata aspetta davanti ad un portone di un imponente palazzo 
governativo. Nonostante le parole enunciate dai vari punti della folla siano di 
per sé comprensibili, è impossibile, di primo acchito, seguire il senso logico del 
discorso in quanto ogni frase è incompleta: 

La folla (da vari punti) 

... e perché SONO anche un. . . 



TEATRO DI STRANIAMENTO IN MARINETTI E BRECHT 



. . . già! e in CINQUANT'ANNI non. . . 
... va là! CHE sei abbastanza. . . 
. . . digli che ASPETTI qualche po'. . . 
... qui c'è QUALCOSA che non va. . . ." 

Se da una parte gli spettatori ricevono impressioni frammentarie che invece di 
chiarire la situazione la rendono più astratta,'" d'altro canto le parole scritte in 
maiuscolo sulle quali va posta la maggior enfasi durante la recitazione, seguono 
un senso logico e si rivolgono direttamente al portiere che "vecchio, bianco, 
automatico" sbarra la porta del palazzo: "Sono cinquant'anni che aspetti 
qualcosa alla porta di un palazzo che non ti interessa affatto. . . ." Il testo quindi 
si sdoppia ed assume un nuovo significato che viene però straniato e reso quasi 
irriconoscibile dai mormorii della folla. Una rappresentazione teatrale di questo 
genere richiede naturalmente un pubblico attento, sveglio, con una forte capacità 
intuitiva. 

Se in Parole di Chiti assistiamo allo straniamente del testo teatrale, in 
Sintesi delle sintesi di Janelli e Nicastro assistiamo ad azioni che, nella 
mancanza assoluta di attori, si susseguono con poco ordine logico. Sul 
palcoscenico buio appare una scia di luce bianca, poi si ode una revolverata 
seguita da grida e, dopo una breve pausa, si ode una "fresca risata di donna" 
contemporaneamente alla quale si spalanca una porta "violentando la platea di 
luce massiccia. Il sipario si stacca, e piomba. "'' Come si nota da questa e da altre 
Sintesi futuriste l'attore perde il suo ruolo predominante, mentre effetti scenici 
come la diffusione della luce, la caduta del sipario e rumori di vario genere 
diventano i veri protagonisti della rappresentazione. 

Per quanto riguarda la visione dell'attore nel teatro futurista è necessario 
rifarsi al Manifesto di Prampolini "L'Atmosfera scenica futurista": l'attore, 
sostiene Prampolini, non solo è un "elemento inutile all'azione teatrale" ma è 
"l'elemento di interpretazione che presenta le maggiori incognite e le minori 
garanzie." Il suo ruolo viene quindi minimizzato e Prampolini giunge ad 
idealizzare una rappresentazione teatrale in cui gli attori scompaiono per lasciar 
luogo all'ambiente scenico che viene personificato." 

Quando l'attore è presente nello spazio scenico, egli è spesso deprivato della 
sua totale presenza fisica, come nella Sintesi Le mani di Marinetti e Corra." In 
questa Sintesi appaiono solo le mani degli attori in diversi atteggiamenti. Esse 
si stringono, si giungono a preghiera, scrivono, graffiano, ecc. In questa 
rappresentazione è assente il fattore narrativo, e queste azioni frammentarie ed 
illogiche hanno potere straniante in quanto sono in grado di mettere in 
discussione e ridefinire l'opera teatrale tradizionale in quanto tale. 

Non solo l'attore viene straniato attraverso l'uso frammentario ed astratto 



CARTE ITALIANE 



del SUO corpo, ma anche quando è presente sulla scena non può immedesimarsi 
con il personaggio da lui interpretato. L'attore deve infatti essere sempre in 
grado di uscire dalla sua parte per sorprendere il pubblico. Egli dovrà quindi far 
uso di 

caricature del dolore e della nostalgia, fortemente impresse nella sensibilità 
per mezzo di gesti esasperanti per la loro lentezza spasmodica esistente e 
stanca; parole gravi ridicolizzate da gesti comici, cammuffature bizzarre, 
parole storpiate, smorfie, buffonate. ''' 

Anche per Brecht l'attore deve riuscire a mantenere una certa distanza tra 
se stesso ed il personaggio interpretato. Per raggiungere questo scopo l'attore 
deve, durante le prove, parlare del proprio personaggio in terza persona, cosi da 
non identificarsi completamente con lui: 

L'attore sulla scena non dà luogo alla totale metamorfosi nel personaggio da 
rappresentare. Non è Lear, Arpagone o Schwejk, ma mostra queste figure. 
Riferisce i loro detti quanto più esattamente possibile, riproduce il loro modo 
di comportarsi per quanto la sua conoscenza umana glielo consente; ma non 
tenta di convincersi (e perciò di convincere altri) di essersi completamente 
incarnato in essi. . . Rinunciato che abbia alla totale metamorfosi, l'attore 
recita il suo testo non come colui che improvvisa, ma come chi fa una 
citazione.'* 

Questo espediente è ben visibile nella commedia La madre in cui degli operai 
narrano di un loro recente conflitto con le autorità, e durante la narrazione gli 
attori rifanno la scena. Il pubblico quindi non vede il conflitto vero e proprio ma 
assiste ad una rappresentazione di questo ed è impossibilitato ad immedesimarsi 
con l'azione, perché gli attori stessi non stanno rappresentando un'azione, ma 
la stanno solo mostrando.'^ 

Anche l'elemento della sorpresa, essenziale per il teatro futurista, è presente 
nell'opera brechtiana, ed il suo fine è quello di disorientare il pubblico; cosi, alla 
fine dell ' Opera dei tre soldi, quando ormai pare chiaro che Mackie Messer verrà 
impiccato, Peachum si rivolge al pubblico con una soluzione diversa: grazie 
all'arrivo di un messo reale Mackie viene salvato. Un altro espediente usato da 
Brecht per ridefinire le norme che definiscono e limitano l'opera teatrale 
tradizionale è la ripetizione di certe scene. In questo modo egli riesce a rallentare 
la rappresentazione teatrale, ed allo stesso tempo a distruggere l'unità narrativa 
tradizionale che procede sempre in linea retta. Il pubblico, una volta distrutta 
l'unità narrativa, non sarà più in grado di perdersi nella trama del dramma o 
della commedia rappresentata, ma potrà soffermarsi e riflettere su ciò che l'opera 



TEATRO DI STRANIAMENTO IN MARINETTI E BRECHT 



mostra. 

Non solo l'unità narrativa dell'opera, ma anche l'unità temporale perde la 
propria validità nel teatro futurista e nel teatro brechtiano. Nel teatro futurista 
l'elemento temporale viene infatti reinventato. L'unità di tempo viene, ad 
esempio, abolita in Passatismo di Corra e Settimelli in cui, nel giro di pochi 
minuti, vengono riassunti cinquant'anni di vita di una coppia, mentre in 
Simultaneità di Marinetti assistiamo alla "contemporaneità di momenti 
differenti."" In questa sintesi due azioni completamente indipendenti tra di loro 
dividono lo stesso spazio scenico. Una giovane Cocotte si sta truccando e 
vestendo aiutata dalla sua cameriera, mentre una famiglia borghese trascorre 
una serata tranquilla. In altre occasioni, i futuristi danno l'idea di simultaneità 
usando proiezioni che rappresentano una scena mentre gli attori ne stanno 
svolgendo un'altra. 

Il tipo di teatro che meglio si addice alla visione futurista è, per Marinetti, 
il teatro di Varietà, perché in esso si può assistere ad una svariata gamma di 
rappresentazioni simultanee in cui l'unità temporale viene annullata. Lo 
spettacolo può infatti spaziare da esercizi acrobatici a "pantomime satiriche 
istruttive," da incontri di bo.xe alla rappresentazione di complicati avvenimenti 
politici, in cui ogni azione si svolge con una velocità ed una leggerezza 
sorprendente: 

D Teatro di Varietà ci offre tutti i record raggiunti finora: massima velocità e 
massimo equilibrismo e acrobatismo dei giapponesi, massima frenesia muscolare 
dei negri, massimo sviluppo dell'intelligenza degli animali, . . . massima 
aspirazione melodica del Golfo di Napoli e delle steppe russe, massimo spirito 
parigino, massima forza comparata delle diverse razze . . . massima bellezza 
della donna.-*^ 

Se il teatro futurista distrugge l'unità temporale riducendo la rappresentazione 
di un'intera opera a pochi minuti, Brecht elimina questa unità dividendo le sue 
opere in episodi indipendenti tra di loro. Come già nel teatro di Varietà futurista, 
l'unità narrativa viene distrutta dall' impiego di canzoni e danze che interrompono 
la scena. Gli attori si trasformano in saltimbanchi e cantanti che commentano 
l'azione con gesti e parole che spesso non rappresentano lo stato d'animo del 
personaggio interpretato. L'idea marinettiana di attori che si esprimono 
attraverso "gesti esasperanti per la loro lentezza spasmodica" e che fanno uso di 
"parole gravi ridicolizzate da gesti comici" e viceversa, è visibile nella danza 
della guerra eseguita da Elif, il figlio di Madre Coraggio. Durante la danza egli 
non è mai completamente a suo agio, come è possibile notare dalle smorfie che 
fa, proprio nei momenti in cui dovrebbe essere più convincente.^' 

Un altro mezzo usato dai futuristi, ma soprattutto da Brecht, per far sì che 



10 CARTE ITALIANE 



il pubblico non si identifichi con l'opera rappresentata, è la messa in mostra degli 
espedienti tecnici che rendono possibile l'opera stessa. Le luci sono spesso 
visibili nelle sintesi futuriste, mentre gli attori spesso si mostrano al pubblico non 
nel loro ruolo di personaggio, ma come attori consapevoli di stare recitando di 
fi-onte ad un pubblico. Allo stesso modo Brecht sottolinea l'importanza di luci 
visibili che illuminino il palcoscenico: come nessuno si aspetterebbe che le luci 
e i riflettori siano nascosti in un evento sportivo, cosi questi dovrebbero rimanere 
visibili anche durante una rappresentazione teatrale.''° Anche il fatto che l'attore 
brechtiano, come abbiamo visto, non debba identificarsi con il personaggio 
rappresentato, ma si limiti a "citarlo," mettendo in evidenza il fatto di aver 
memorizzato la sua parte, rende lo spettatore consapevole che la recitazione non 
è un fatto automatico e "normale" ma è una tecnica che deve essere imparata. 

Gli elementi di straniamento usati dai fiituristi e da Brecht hanno come 
risultato la rottura del quarto muro: in entrambi i casi il pubblico infatti è 
consapevole di stare assistendo ad una recita, e deve mantenere un ruolo attivo. 
Tuttavia, a causa della loro diversa ideologia pohtico-sociale il tipo di provocazione 
esercitata sul proprio pubblico è molto diversa. 

Lo scopo del teatro futurista, sostiene Marinetti, è di "influenzare 
guerrescamente l'anima italiana," quindi di incitare il proprio pubblico alla 
violenza, non solo contro "il passatismo" della borghesia, ma contro la potenza 
europea che riassume in sé, secondo Marinetti, tutti i caratteri retrogradi 
dell'epoca: l'Austria e la Germania. Il teatro di Marinetti è quindi un teatro 
interventista. Non a caso il "Manifesto del Teatro Sintetico" da cui è tratta la mia 
citazione è del '15, armo dell'entrata in guerra dell'Italia contro gli Imperi 
Centrali. 

Ciò che i futuristi vogliono dal loro pubblico, dunque, non è una risposta 
intellettualmente attiva, intelligente, a cui il singolo spettatore può arrivare solo 
attraverso un processo lento di riflessione. È infatti stupido ed assurdo, sostiene 
Marinetti nel suo Manifesto sul Teatro sintetico, 

fare in modo che il pubblico debba sempre capire con la massima completezza 
il come e il perché di ogni azione scenica e soprattutto sapere all'ultimo atto 
come vanno a finire i protagonisti.'" 

Al contrario, i futuristi aspirano ad una risposta veloce, "simultanea," e, 
soprattutto, ad una risposta di gruppo, sempre calcolata da Marinetti, che, per 
raggiungerla propone espedienti di vario genere, tra cui 

mettere della colla forte su alcune poltrone, perché lo spettatore, uomo o donna, 
che rimane incollato, susciti l'ilarità generale. . . . Vendere lo stesso posto a 
dieci persone: quindi ingombro, battibecchi e alterichi. Offrire posti gratuiti 



TEATRO DI STRANIAMENTO IN MARINETTI E BRECHT H 



a signori o signore notoriamente pazzoidi. . . . Cospargere le poltrone di polveri 
che provochino il prurito, lo stemuto ecc/^ 

Questi espedienti, più la provocazione dei testi teatrali stessi, che rompendo 
così drasticamente con la tradizione non possono essere recepiti facilmente, 
provocano naturalmente un senso di rabbia negli spettatori che reagiscono 
violentemente, assecondando così il desiderio dei futuristi: si pensi, oltre agli 
esempi già citati, aWAtto negativo di Corra e Settimelli, in cui un attore entra 
sul palcoscenico e rivolto al pubblico, in modo irritato dice categorico: "Io . . . 
non ho proprio niente da dirvi!",'*' ed esce. 

Il pubblico diventa allora parte integrante dello spettacolo, in una battaglia 
dove insulti, uova e verdura marcia vengono scagliati da una parte all'altra del 
teatro. Come aveva teorizzato Marinetti, l'atmosfera del pubblico si fonde con 
quella del palcoscenico, e "l'azione si svolge ad un tempo sul palcoscenico, nei 
palchi e nella platea,""" per continuare poi, per la strada, sulle piazze e nei caffè. 

Se per Marinetti il teatro deve essere un campo di battaglia, per Brecht esso 
assume un valore didattico. La vicenda narrata nel teatro epico brechtiano, che 
differisce dal teatro drammatico in quanto viene accentuata la narrazione 
dell'azione, ma non l'azione di per sé, deve stimolare l'attività del pubblico, 
strappargli delle decisioni e procurargli delle nuove nozioni."' Lo spettacolo 
teatrale non deve più essere puro intrattenimento, ma diventa per lo spettatore 
materia di riflessione. Mentre nel teatro futurista si richiedeva da parte del 
pubblico una reazione istantanea, nel teatro di Brecht viene creata 

la libertà epica di indugiare e riflettere. Poiché l'uomo protagonista dell'azione 
non è più che l'oggetto del teatro, si può andare al di là della sua persona e 
indagare sui motivi che lo spingono ad agire."^ 

Ecco che allora l'uso degli effetti di straniamento fatto da Brecht assume un 
valore molto diverso da quello marinettiano. Quando l'attore, nell'opera 
brechtiana, si rivolge direttamente al pubblico non lo fa, come nel caso dei 
futuristi, per ricevere una risposta immediata, ma per fario riflettere su alcuni 
problemi di ordine morale. L'opera che meglio esemplifica questo punto è 
L 'Anima buona di Sezuan, in cui lo spettatore osserva il doppio comportamento 
della prostituta Shen Te, che, per vivere una vita onesta è obbligata ad assumere 
di quando in quando la maschera di Shui Ta, uomo calcolatore e senza scrupoli. 
Alla fine della rappresentazione, alla domanda disperata di Shen Te, su come si 
possa vivere onestamente in una società così corrotta, gli dei da lei interpellati 
non hanno una risposta ed un attore, allora, rivolgendosi al pubblico lo esorta a 
trovare una soluzione: "Verhertes Publikum, los, such dir selbst den Schluss!""^ 
Il pubblico si trova dunque obbligato a riflettere sui problemi di una società in 



12 CARTE ITALIANE 



cui l'uomo onesto per sopravvivere deve ricorrere alla violenza ed alla frode. 

Inoltre, se Marinetti, ad esempio, impiega proiezioni per sorprendere il 
proprio pubblico con un espediente tecnico moderno che permette di rompere 
l'unità temporale per rappresentare situazioni simultanee, Brecht ne fa uso per 
storicizzare l'opera e sottolineare il fatto che certe ingiustizie sociali che 
appaiono generali ed eteme, sono invece il prodotto di uno specifico momento 
storico e dipendono da una situazione politica che può essere cambiata e non deve 
essere accettata in tutta passività. D'altra parte, queste proiezioni hanno spesso 
il compito di riassumere o commentare ciò che accadrà nella scena seguente. In 
questo modo il pubblico potrà concentrarsi non più su "che cosa" succederà, in 
quanto questo gli è già stato rivelato, ma "sul come" si svolgeranno le azioni. 
Cosi, ad esempio, inMadre Coraggio, il pubbhcosa già all'inizio dell 'undicesima 
scena che Kattrin, la figlia sordomuta di Madre Coraggio, morirà: 

Januar 1636. Die kaiserlichen Truppen bedrohen die evangelische Stadt Halle. 
. . . Mutter Courage verliert ihre Tochter und zieht allein welter. Der Krieg 
ist ncx;h lange nicht zu Ende.''* 

Questa scena perde dunque la sua suspense, ed il pubblico può allora riflettere 
sull'azione completamente altruistica della fanciulla che perde la propria vita 
per avvertire la città vicina dell'arrivo del nemico, e paragonarla alla bassezza 
morale della madre, la quale sfrutta la guerra per ricavarne profitti economici, 
mentre viene sottolineata, in tutta l'opera, l'inutilità e l'assurdità di una guerra 
che pare non voglia finire mai. D'altra parte, poiché viene sottolineata la 
storicità dell'evento, anche l'avidità di Mutter Courage non può più essere 
interpretata come una caratteristica generale umana, ma come il risultato di uno 
specifico momento storico. 

Se i futuristi in Italia e Brecht in Germania, partono da un desiderio comune 
di "épater lebourgeois" e di rinnovare l'opera teatrale attraverso tecniche simili, 
essi, a causa delle loro diverse ideologie, si trovano in posizioni diametralmente 
opposte. Là dove Marinetti esalta la guerra come "unica igiene del mondo" e 
vuole che il suo teatro diventi una palestra per incitare ed allenare i giovani al 
conflitto mondiale, Brecht riforma il suo teatro per dargli una nuova dignità 
politica, e per far riflettere il pubblico sulle ingiustizie sociali esistenti in un 
mondo retto da una classe borghese corrotta. 
Elena Coda 
Department ofitalian 
University of California, Los Angeles 



TEATRO DI STRANIAMENTO IN MARINETTI E BRECHT 13 



Note 

'Non è mio scopo provare che Brecht sia stato influenzato direttamente da Marinetti, 
anche se è probabile che egli fosse a conoscenza dell'opera del futurista italiano. 
Marinetti ebbe infatti molto contatti con la Germania. La rivista tedesca "Der Sturm," 
diretta da Herwarth Walden, difTuse le idee dei giovani futuristi, e Marinetti, insieme ad 
altri futuristi, si recò a Berlino f)er presiedere esposizioni d'arte futurista. Non è dunque 
da escludersi che il giovane Brecht, attraverso il giornale di Walden, fosse a conoscenza 
del movimento futurista. Per maggiori informazioni sui rapporti tra i futuristi e 
l'avanguardia tedesca cfr. Demetz, Italian Futurism and the German Literary Avant- 
Garde (London: University of London, 1987). 

^F. T. Marinetti, Teoria e invenzione futurista (Milano: Mondadori, 1990) 1 14-15. 

'Bertolt Brecht, Scritti teatrali (Torino: Einaudi, 1962) 16. 

"Marinetti 80-81. 

'Marinetti 87. 

^Marinetti 117. 

^Bertolt Brecht, "Note sul teatro popolare," Scritti 86. 

Brecht, "Breviario di estetica teatrale," Scritti 106-07. 

'Cfr. Peter Burger, Theory of the Avant-Garde (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 
1984) 84-89. Egli sostiene tra l'altro, che uno degli elementi comuni tra avanguardia 
storica e Brecht è la predilizione per opere frammentarie ed inorganiche. 

'"Brecht, Scritti 14. 

"PuUini, Teatro italiano del Novecento (Bologna: Cappelli, 1971) 70. 

'^Sklovskij, "L'Arte come procedimento," Letteratura e Strutturalismo (Bologna: 
Zanichelli, 1978) 51. 

'^Sklovskij 51. 

'"Sklovskij 59. 

"Sklovskij 52. 

'*Cfr. Jameson, The Prison-House ofLanguage (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1972) 54- 
59. 

'■'Burger 18. 

'^Marinetti 114. 

'Brecht, Scritti 62. 

^°Lucia Re, Calvino and the Age ofNeorealism (Stanford: Stanford UP, 1990) 5. 

^'Prampolini, "L'Atmosfera scenica...," Sipario (Milano: Bompiani) dicembre 
1967: 50. 

^^Prampolini, "Scenografia futurista," Sipario 56-57. 

"Cit. in Kirby, Futurist Performance (New York: Dutton, 1971) 117. 

^"Brecht, Stiicke von Bertolt Brecht in einem Band (Frankfurt am Main: 
Suhrkamp,1978) 419. 

"Brecht, Stiicke 682. 

"Marinetti 167. 



14 CARTE ITALIANE 



"Marinetti 168. 

^^Marinetti 82. 

"Chiti, Parole, Sipario 92. 

^'torby 60. 

"Janelli e Nicastro, Sintesi delle sintesi, Teatro d'avanguardia, a cura di Verrone 
(Roma: Officina, 1970) 95. 

'^Prampolini, "L'Atmosfera scenica. . ."51. 

■"Marinetti e Corra, Le mani. Sipario 90. 

'"Marinetti 82. 

"Brecht, Scritti 79-80. 

'*Cfr. Gray, Brecht the Dramatist (London: Cambridge UP, 1976) 70. 

■'^Angelini, Teatro e spettacolo nel primo Novecento (Roma: Laterza, 1988) 36. 

'^Marinetti 87. 

^*Gray 69. 

"^Brecht, Versuche (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1959) 97. 

"•Marinetti 116. 

"^Marinetti 89. 

"^Corra e Settimelli, Atto negativo. Sipario 91. 

""Marinetti 83-84. 

"'Brecht, Scritti 13. 

"^Szondi, Teoria del teatro moderno (Torino: Einaudi, 1962) 98. 

"'Brecht, Stticke 641. "Distinto pubblico, avanti, cercati la soluzione da te!" 

"^'Gennaio 1636. Le truppe imperiali minacciano la città protestante di Halle. . . 
Madre Coraggio perde sua figlia e procede da sola. La guerra continua ancora per molto 
tempo." (La traduzione è mia.) 



Opere citate 

Angelini, Franca. Teatro e spettacolo nel primo Novecento. Roma: Laterza, 1988. 
Brecht, Bertolt. Stucke von Bertolt Brecht in einem Band. Frankfurt am Main: 

Suhrkamp, 1978. 

. Scritti teatrali. Torino: Einaudi, 1962. 

. Versuche. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1959. 

BOrger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-Garde. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984. 
Demetz, Peter. Italian Futurism and the German Literary Avant-Garde. London: U of 

London, 1987. 
Gray, Ronald. Brecht the Dramatist. London: Cambridge UP, 1976. 
Jameson, Fredric. The Prison-House o/Language. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1972. 
Kirby, Richard. Futurist Performance. New York: Dutton, 1971. 
Marinetti, F. T. Teoria e invenzione futurista. Milano: Mondadori, 1990. 
Pullini, Giorgio. Teatro italiano del Novecento. Bologna: Cappelli, 1971. 



TEATRO DI STRANIAMENTO IN MARINETTI E BRECHT 15 



Re, Lucia. Calvino and the Age ofNeorealism. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1990. 

Sipario 260 (dicembre 1967). 

Sklovskij, Viktor. "L'Arte come procedimento." Letteratura e società. Bologna: 

Zanichelli, 1978. 
Szondi, Peter. Teoria del teatro moderno. Torino: Einaudi, 1962. 
Teatro d'avanguardia italiano: Drammi e sintesi futuriste . A cura di Mario Verdone. 

Roma: Officina, 1971. 



Autobìographìcal Seductìon and Futurìsm 



1. Introduction 

This paper concems itself with autobiographical accounts of seduction 
within Futurist literature. Although often dismissed as trivial, irrelevantly 
misogynist, incongruous, or banal, the issue of seduction lies at the heart of 
Futurism's program both as an artistic and later as a politicai movement — and 
as such deserves the further attention of scholars. 

Seduction as a theme was present at the birth of Futurism: what its 
recognizance depends on, hovvever, is the reader's awareness of the peculiarity 
of the Futurist use of the term. Seduction equals — unequivocally throughout the 
Futurist period — ^violence. Even when not explicitly violent, Futurist seductions 
occur, at the very least, dressed in the language of violence, of war, of rape. Thus, 
we read in the founding Manifesto del Futurismo (1909) that "La poesia deve 
essere concepita come un violento assalto contro le forze ignote, per ridurle a 
prostrarsi davanti all'uomo."' Although perhaps seduction itself is not the true 
means by which the deliberately vague "forze ignote" are to be reined in, that 
there exists a strong similarity between the purposes of poetry for the Futurists 
and the purpose of seduction as commonly defined — i.e. both seek the prostration 
of an object at thefeet o/man (foUowing a very male discourse) — indicates a 
collusion of the significances of the seemingly disparate acts of "assault" and 
seduction. From this very early stage of Futurism, the equation: seduction - 
violence, is posited as centrai to the entire Futurist program. In seeking so 
tenaciously to expand itself through the propagation of its ideals, tenets and 
energy, the movement systematically availed itself of the powers of seduction. 
Only seduction, and prostration at the feet of Futurism, could ensure the growth 
and perpetuation of Futurism as a movement. 

In terms of the self-consciously aggressive and militaristic heterosexual 
logie of Futurism, then, it should foUow that the object of a program of seduction 
that emphasizes to such an extent the power of the male would be none other tan 
woman. It seems that she would fit most neatly in the role of that object which 
man wishes to have prostrated before him. How, then, can we explain within the 
founding Manifesto, merely several articles after the aforementioned desire for 
seduction, the expression of a "disprezzo della donna" and the desire to 

16 



AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SEDUCTION AND FUTURISM 17 



"combattere contro ... il femminismo," aimed at eradicating the very idea of 
femininity itself? This seemingly incongruent duplicity within the Manifesto 
allows US to begin to defme what woman represented for the Futurists. The 
contrastbetween theexpression ofboth a desire for seduction in the heterodoxical/ 
heterosexual sense — of women by men, as is demonstrated in Futurist litera- 
ture — and a declaration of disdain for women and femininity could not bave 
escaped Marinetti's eye, nor was it intended to. Women were of two sorts for the 
Futurists, Qiihzr passatista, or Futurist. ThQ passatista woman, i\\Qfemme fatale 
of fin de siede Europe, was the enemy of Futurism, as she embodied, quite 
literally, ali that the movement scorned. The donna that Futurism disdained used 
her "sentimental superstructures" to keep man entrapped, past-loving and 
passive.^ According to bis friends, Marinetti's disdain for women was not 
universal, but rather directed against that segment of the female gender 
characterized by its "senso simbolista e dannunziano."^ In fact. Settimelli and 
Corra assert, in their introduction to Come si seducono le donne, the quasi- 
political tract on Futurist seduction, that 

Nessuno più di Marinetti apprezza le donne e noi amici possiamo testimoniarlo: 
egli combatte la donna non quale è veramente ma quale prodotto della 
passionalità egoistica del maschio orientale e della letteratura romantica. 
{CSD 23, emphasis mine) 

Thus, the positing of a tenuous distinction between "apprezzo" and "disprezzo" 
— appreciation and disdain — marks the beginning of the reformation of the 
proper role for women within Futurist society. 

The Futurist desire to displace the femme fatale of Romantic and decadent 
literature is, in efifect, the desire to replace her in ber role of agent of seduction. 
Furthermore, the very proximity of the femme fatale to the Futurist man could 
be potentially emasculating for him, as the woman as seductress leaves the man 
stripped of the opportunity to prove bis masculinity (which can be accomplished 
only by having the object prostrate itSQÌf through an act ofviolence at the man's 
feet, and not vice-versa).'' The sexual rapport between man and woman as 
characterized by the passatista model, in which the Futurists saw man first 
enveloped and then drained by the negative forces of an over-burdened nostalgie 
femininity, would do nothing other that hinder the male in bis realization of the 
goal of Futurism — the extension of itself as a (primarily) masculine movement. 

Thus, seduction for the Futurists occurs only of women by men, within a 
context ofviolence, and as the exterior manifestation of an ulterior motive. This 
"ulterior motive" shall remain at this point as unnamed, as were the "forze 
ignote" in the founding Manifesto, as the true purpose of seduction for the 
Futurists remained deliberately undefined throughout their literature. This 



Ig CARTE ITALIANE 



paper shall seek to pinpoint a definilion of what Futurism would have intended 
seduction to mean, had the Futurists sought to fumish an unequivocal definition 
of it. Given the peculiar nature of autobiographical writing, auobiographical 
accounts of seduction are the best place to look for precisely such a definition. 

2. Autobiografia, Autobiografismo and Seduction 

The three works I intend to examine in detail include two by Marinetti 
himself, Elettricità Sessuale (1909), a play; and Come si seducono le donne 
(1918), variously described as self-help manual, novel, and volume vissuto; and 
a third written by the female Futurist writer Enif Robert — with Marinetti 's 
collaboration — Un ventre di donna (1919). Although none of the three works 
purport to be strictly autobiographical — with the possible exception of Come si 
seducono le donne, which in its proemio (if not only there) defines itself as a 
"lived work," thus at least claiming to be true — ali three are characterizedby that 
literary trait known as autobiografismo. Autobiografismo, or in English, 
autobiographism, is in the definition of Fido "the tendency to write about oneself 
in any kind of work."' Ali three works contain, for one reason or another, which 
shall be explored later, an element of the autobiographical. 

Granted the nature of autobiography, in which the author's intent (if one 
may speak of such a thing) seeks to portray none other than an image of the self, 
"a monument of the self as it is becoming, a metaphor of the self at the summary 
moment of composition," that, through the selectivity with which elements are 
either included within, or excluded from, the text, speaks of a meaning that no 
longer makes reference to actual facts or objects, but rather to their intended 
significance in relation to the life as a whole.^ Whereas signification is etemally 
postponed, as Lyotard would put it, within works characterized by 
autobiografismo, itbecomes clear that the referent is a purely metalinguistic one; 
it deals with metaphors and not facts of "self "^ 

Thus, dose readings of autobiographical accounts of seduction, highly 
metaphoric as such, should reveal to the scrutinizing eye elements pertinent to 
their social and politicai relevance, scope, aim and so forth, as the selectivity with 
which the "truths" portrayed within the text cannot help but be indicative of 
where the text itself wishes to go — towards what metaphoric meaning it strives 
to reach. Furthermore, autobiographical accounts of seduction can have hidden 
within themselves an agenda, easily insinuated imo the minds of those who read 
them; texts of seduction are seductive texts. 

3. Seduction. Violence and Homosocial/sexual Desire 

To recali briefly the originai Manifesto of Futurism, even here, at Futurism's 
birth, violence, or at least aggression and/or speed, is present in ali eleven 



AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SEDUCTION AND FUTURISM 19 



articles, indicative of its cruciai importance for the movement as a whole. Why, 
however, did the Futurists feel such a pressing need to extend violence to 
seduction and to the sexual act itself? Come si seducono le donne, let us recali, 
is a book that "non poteva nascere che in un'epoca di guerra" (CSD 21). Thus 
we read its chronicles of seduction as though we were reading an account of the 
war that frames the text; the sexual and the bellicose meld together upon the 
written page. Indeed, the lexicon of seduction employed by Marinetti within the 
text coincides exactly with that of war: seduction is portrayed in three moments, 

1 . strategia . . . tattica . . . lancio . . . attacco . . . agguato . . . bombardamento; 

2. contrattacco . . . ostacolo . . . difendere . . . resistere; 3. vittoria . . . vin- 
cere . . . liberatore, in which man is pitted against woman, with victory ensuing 
upon the "liberation" of the object of conquest {CSD 39-49). Indeed, sexual 
victory itself, portrayed by the language of war, concems the prostration of 
woman before man, facilitating the final conquest — the male carnai possession 
of the female: as we read in A basso il tango e Parsifal!, "Possedee una donna, 
non è strofinarsi contro di essa, ma penetrarla" (TIF 95). But the converse also 
exists, the sexualization of war/violence, as we see in the foUowing example from 
Uccidiamo il chiaro di luna!: 

Ecco la furibonda copula della battaglia, vulva gigantesca irritata dalla foia del 
coraggio, vulva informe che si squarcia per offrirsi meglio al terrifico spasimo 
della vittoria imminente! (TIF 26) 

The Futurist's indefatigable lust for war — their Nietzschean will to 
power — permeates ali of their art, regardless of medium. However, when no 
longer viewed in a simplistic way as a juvenile predilection, albeit incurable, the 
urge to mix violence with sex, and sex with violence appears indicative of 
another motive. According to Sedgwick, "to sexualize violence or an image of 
violence is simply to extend, unchanged, its reach and force."* Therefore, the 
driving motive behind the sexualization of violence for the Futurists is precisely 
the extension of its influence beyond the level of the personal (or the International, 
as there exists in Futurism the equating of the female body to the battlefield, and 
of the difference between genders to the difference between nations) to the level 
of their nationalistic discourse.' Seduction, as sexualized violent encounters, 
and violent sexiial encounters, can be read within the Futurist context as being 
indicative of an entire symbolic and ideological system, in that the potential 
extent of its influence reaches far beyond its immediate implications. Dreams 
of penetration are prevalent in a movement that exalts imperialism and the 
violence of war, as it is not terribly difficult to compare the metaphoric 
significance ofjouissance within the sexual act for the male with the thrill of 
victory upon the battlefield, nor to understand the equivalence between 



20 CARTE ITALIANE 



vanquishing an enemy and vanquishing the enemy woman. As Valentine St. 
Point writes in her Manifesto futurista della lussuria, "È NORMALE CHE I 
VINCITORI, SELEZIONATI DALLA GUERRA, GIUNGANO FINO ALLO 
STUPRO, NEL PAESE CONQUISTATO, PER RICREARE DELLA VITA"; 
what is stili unclear is why seduction is made into such a spectacle, and if it is 
indeed representative of a system, what constitutes such a system?'^ 

At the most basic level, it becomes clear that the system is none other than 
the Italian patriarchal politicai ideology of this period. Por ali of Futurism's 
pretenses of radicai change and rejection of this past, it remains largely anchored 
to this reactionary and traditional ideology. Within patriarchies, according to 
Sedgwick, heterosexuality is practically obligatory — as is, it appears, 
homophobia. ' ' Indeed, a text such as Come si seducono le donne strives to prove 
the virility of its author obsessively, even to the point of being pathological, ali 
the while vilifying homosexuality.'^ We read in Corra and Settimelli's preface 
to Come si seducono le donne a frank testimony to Marinetti ' s prowess as a male; 
even after a fifty hour joumey to Palermo, Marinetti, rather than take his rest, 
bounds off "da una donna," whose anonymity indicates her fiinction solely as 
proof of his heterosexuality {CSD 10). As befits the logie of ali patriarchal 
systems, the textual woman serves only as the guarantor of male virility, as the 
vouchsafe of male heterosexual identity. The socio-political bonds that arise 
between men within the patriarchal system are therefore touched by the 
sexuahzation of violence/the violence of sxuality — seduction in Futurist terms — 
since the topos upon which the whole spectacle plays itself out, the female body, 
serves no other purpose than that of cementing the bonds between men. These 
homosocial bonds, the supposed polar opposite of homosexual bonds, between 
men are kept as such precisely because of the mediating role played by the 
woman, since they are "proof of non-homosexuality and fiirthermore "ofifer" 
themselves as the proving grounds for the hypervirile Futurist male.'^ 

Within the scheme of Futurist seduction the role played by women, posited 
as the supposed object of seduction, is often no more than that of a contractual 
term. True to Sedgwick's defmition of homosocial desire, in which men actively 
seek to promote the interest of other men, seduction for the Futurists proves itself 
to be exactly that: a structure that permits the play of homosocial desire, while 
ensuring that the homosocial-homosexual continuum remains broken, thus 
eliminating the potential threat to the hypervirile Futurist male that desire 
regress to practice. ''* Therefore, the true partners for the male within this system 
of sexualized politics are other men; women are relegated to the position of 
controlling the heterosexual legitimacy of such arrangements. 

The seductiveness of such autobiographical texts of seduction lies chiefly in 
their textual manifestation of a profound belief in the system which we have just 



AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SEDUCTION AND FUTURISM 21 



delineated. As Nazzaro writes, 

La scrittura diviene, così, un progetto concettuale, astratto e persuasivo, 
entro cui potersi calare e riconoscersi, onde poter postulare, sul piano delle 
trasparenze intellettive e con la complicità dell'interiocutore, delle modi- 
ficazioni parametriche che, a loro volta, determinano la durata del piano 
programmato come immediato intervento nella v/to." 

Thus the autobiographical text now serves three purposes: as a metaphor of 
the entire project, of the entire system; as a device to prove the virihty of its 
author, thus completing a second seduction, that of its readers (presumably male, 
the true objects of the Futurist male's seductive endeavor); and as a means to 
ensure the participation of other males within the system — that immediato 
intervento. 

Regardless of how efifectively women play their role within this triangle 
there stili exists the distinct danger that men will be overactive in their seeking 
the homosocial bond, and thus risk being effeminate in their desire for closeness 
to other men. The strictness with which the three points of this triangular 
relationship must be separated for the Futurists can be easily demonstrated, as 
the proximity of the male to the male within the context of homosociality gives 
rise to doubt about the virility of the male in question. Exaggeration of the male- 
male bond would allow the question of efifeminacy to emerge. Ironically enough, 
an exaggeration of the male-female bond would accomplish the same, as it seems 
to bring on the languid decadence of the dannunzian model ofìhQfemmefatale- 
male relationship. Futurism sought to avoid movement along the homosocial- 
homosexual axis, as the taking of an overly extreme position on either end of it 
would mark a threat to the Futurist male. As Marinetti writes in Contro il 
matrimonio, in Democrazia futurista, "Sarà finalmente abolita la mescolanza di 
maschi e femmine che — nella prima età — produce una dannosa effeminazione 
dei maschi" {TIF 370). Although Marinetti claims to speak of onlythe tender 
prima età bere, ali stages of heterosexual male development and existence are 
implied, for the lingering male who remains with the female risks emasculation, 
regardless of age. Even during and after the sexual act, contact with the woman 
should be kept to the bare minimum: "Bisogna dunque velocizzare e sintetizzare 
anche l'amore!" as Marinetti claims {CSD 60). 

The fear of not occupying one's correct station along the homosocial- 
homosexual continuum represented the threat to the virility of the Futurists. In 
fact, so tenuous was their idea of masculinity, so prone were they to incessant 
afiirmations of their own unshakable virility, that it becomes clear that mascuhnity 
and virility had ceased to be perceived as a birthright, but rather bave become a 
construct, a work in progress. As Gilmore writes of the construction of sexiial 



22 CARTE ITALIANE 



roles in Victorian England, "Boys . . . had tobe made masculine; otherwise there 
was doubt."'* Homophobia ("doubt"), band in band with disdain for the overly 
feminine woman, kept the Futurist male in check. 

Regardless of the distances kept between the points of the triangle — 
especially between men — the broad insistence on the model of seduction that can 
be found throughout Futurist writing requires that the male as Futurist play what 
was traditionally a very feminine role. The Futurist ideal of seduction by the 
"hypervirile" male, when stripped of its (necessary) element of violence, does 
little more than invert the fin de siede idea of the female seductress. Again, what 
prevents the exposure of the male as an essentially "female" character is the ever 
present role of the female object, the vouchsafe, whose presence as the ostensibly 
"true" object of seduction relieves zmyAngst or phobia that may accompany the 
active searching out of the true partner, other males. 

Indeed, the female serves as little more than the screen behind which the 
oppressed homosexual desires of the hypervirile man can redress themselves as 
merely homosocial. As Sedgwick states, foUowing Freud, efifeminacy within 
heterosexual male development is a naturai stage, as in the search for a separate 
heterosexual identity of their own, young boys fmd themselves in the position of 
"effeminized subordination" to their fathers.'^ The Futurist fmds himself 
effeminized in the search for his own identity — and in his search to make others 
over in his own image. This version of the Girardian triangle fiinctions precisely 
because of the male's disdain for the female, which keeps her at her proper 
distance (recali the "disprezzo per la donna" in the fonnAìngManifesto); should 
she be approached any more closely, should velocity be removed from the sexual 
act, the element of homosocial attractiveness to other men might disappear as the 
male's hypervirile autonomy would disappear; should she be kept any more 
distant, the pretense of heterosexuality would no longer be credible. Regardless 
of the continuum that may exist between homosocial and homosexual desire, it 
must remain broken at least on the theoretical level, lest the Futurist fall prey to 
his own phobias. 

The position of the male Girardian third within the Futurist triangle of 
desire points towards a conceivably broader role for the male as seducer — that 
of performer. In the accounts that we shall be reading the male third is cast in 
the only possible role exterior to the binary opposition seducer-seduced: that of 
audience. To maximize the legitimacy of the heterosexuality of the seductive 
spectacle the presence of the true object of seduction, the male, must be relegated 
to an extemal position, thus the invention of the role of spectator, of audience. 
Seductions can only be seductive if witnessed, thus Futurist seductions occur 
almost without exception within the arena of the theatrical, textual or rhetorical. 
As the male needs to be privy to the act itself, as voyeuristic as it may sound, in 



AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SEDUCTION AND FUTURISM 23 



order for the system to fiinction properly, Futurist seduction occurs as drama. For 
Marinetti and the Futurists the theater of seduction and the theater of war, both 
public pectacles of virile prowess writ large, were one and the same, that topos 
within which the violent and the sexual can no longer be distinguished. 

In conclusion to our definition of seduction for the Futurists it proves useful 
to affirm that the seduction of women was chronicled primarily within a variety 
of artistic media, most important amongst which were the printed word and the 
theatrical performance, both of which require an audience, a reader, a spectator, 
in order for them to have any sense. And, although both enjoyed female 
followings of their own, ultimately they targeted the male audience, in hopes of 
seducing them imo the Futurist fold. 

4. Seduction, Violence and Homophobia: Proof of System 

Homophobia, too, loosely defined, was a vital component of the violence of 
Futurist seduction and of the Futurist patriarchal system, as it maintained the 
heterosexual legitimacy of the Girardian triangle, granted its implied presence 
in (or motivation behind) the endlessbragging and parading of the female object 
of desire. Therefore, the seduction of women may be equated with homophobic 
violence as both actively seek within the framework of Futurist ideology to 
seduce men through the aggressive foregrounding of their presumably virile 
qualities. That violence and seduction/penetration of women were unequivocally 
tied together was clear to ali, least not to the Futurists themselves, as can be seen 
in the following example from Come si seducono le donne, in which, one night 
at a seratafuturista, according to Corra and Settimelli in the preface to the work, 

Marinetti esclama: "Noi siamo per la violenza" ed uno spettatore con tutta 
ingenuità domanda di fondo: "Scusi, che cosa ne pensa della violenza carnale?" 

Battuta di spirito? Semplicità? Non è possibile saperio ma noi risentiamo 
ancora l'effetto comicissimo di quella voce cauta e discreta. {CSD 18-19) 

The question itself is ingenious because it is bom of simplicity : the spectator 
fails to grasp that for the Futurists violence is both physical and carnai; violence 
is both war and rape, international and personal. Homophobia, or even the mere 
use (seduction/penetration) of women objectively vis-à-vis the male third within 
the Girardian triangle, delineates a space, a mechanism of domination (but not 
necessarily its agency, thrust or motivation) of the bonds that structure ali social 
form, and not just its declared, immediate objectives. '^ 

Homophobia, as characterized by this limited definition on the Futurist 
politicai, theatrical and textual stage, has a large amount of leverage as it coerces 
ali attendant males (the audience) into questioning — and affirming (i.e. through 
ftirther acts of violence, war and seduction) — their own heterosexual, male 



24 CARTE ITALIANE 



identity. The male Futurist audience can never be passive, since it is explicitly 
asked to play out in its own life, to recali Nazzaro, the seductively ideological 
spectacle to which it is privy. The recruitment of active male participants within 
the Futurist movement, seems to be at least partially the system at which 
seduction hints. A fiirther elaboration of this will be conducted upon reading of 
the texts in question. 

Therefore, prior to opening the texts themselves, I posit that in Futurist 
autobiographical accounts of seduction it would be practically impossible not to 
gain some idea of what the movement as a whole intended to be its "thrust and 
motivation," as autoiography as a genre has within its scope the relation of a 
metaphorical meaning of, in this case, the seductive self. 

5. Elettricità sessuale: Violent Seduction and the Audience Revealed 

Elettricità sessuale, a short play in three acts, was first published in its 
originai French under the title of Poupèes èlectriques in 1909, the year of the 
founding of the Futurist movement. Although one cannot claim that it is strictly 
autobiographical in nature. Elettricità sessuale presents a variety of elements to 
its reader — to its audience — that reflect the "insistente autobiografismo" of its 
author, Marinetti himself.'^ The story is of Riccardo Marinetti, a "ingegnere, 
costruttore di fantocci electtrici," and his wife. Maria, and the former's particu- 
lar perversion of having present a number oiìvis fantocci whenever he chooses 
to seduce his own wife.^° The choice of the two very unheimlich mechanized 
dolls that appear within the play, professor Matrimonio and madame Famiglia, 
is striking. Both represent the normative social institutions which Marinetti the 
Futurist vehemently opposed. Ironically, however, Marinetti himself was 
married in 1 909, the year that Elettricità sessuale was first published in Italian.^' 
As one of the maids in the Marinetti household remarks, "Il padrone e la 
padrona si concedono ogni sera il lusso e l'illusione di baciucchiarsi dietro le 
spalle di qualcuno!", reflecting the sense of a heightening of the pleasure of the 
sexual encounter through the presence of a third party (ES 13). Whether or not 
this third party is the third party of the Girardian scheme remains to be discussed. 
It is certain that Marinetti the character's — and by autobiographical extension, 
Marinetti the man's — performance on the sexual stage requires the presence of 
an audience, albeit one that is hoodwinked by what goes on behind its back. 
Marinetti the character derives pleasure from the act of seduction precisely 
because of the secretive element of it. He often has Maria play along with his 
fantasy of seduction, telling her. 

Maria. . . Senti. . . Io non sono tuo marito. . . Tuo marito è li, [pointing to 
professor Matrimonio] davanti a noi. . . Dorme. . . Sono io, io. . . Lo sai, chi 



AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SEDUCTION AND FXJTURISM 25 



sono " (ES 28) 

Marinetti's seduction of his own wife works because of the scripted complicity 
of a mechanical version of the necessary third, onto whom he prqjects his dreams 
of a system of seduction. The presence of mechanical versions of the polar 
opposites of Futurist "Ubero amore," family and marriage, exacerbates the 
theatrical virihty of the seducer himself, as the seductive act becomes one of great 
daring. However, the fact that the two fantocci doze throughout the whole scene 
of seduction in the second act — with occasionai coughing spells to heighten the 
fear of discovery — seems to fly in the face of what we have proposed as the model 
of Futurist seductions: the third is present, but unaware. One must recali that the 
act of seduction portrayed within the text was intended to be performed on stage, 
thus the theater of seduction coincides perfectly with the stage of drama. The 
male audience — the true object of seduction — does not nap away unconsciously 
on stage, rather it sits rapt with attention in the theater, privy to a scene of Futurist 
seduction. The barrier created by the fourth wall of the play, which separates the 
audience from the scene on stage — andthus the male elements of the Girardian 
triangle — ensures that the homosocial- homosexual continuum remains broken. 
The theatrical or artistic performance of an autobiographical account of seduction 
proves to be the safest mode of relation, as it permits the unabashedly voyeuristic 
gaze of the male audience, without however allowing the proximity of the two 
elements which might prove to be effeminizing/emasculating for the seducer. 
Confirmation that the seduction of his own wife within Elettricità sessuale 
was designed as little more than an overture to the male members of his audience 
can be found throughout the short play. Indeed, the pressing need that Marinetti 
the character felt to seduce his own wife, so as to lend meaning to their sexual 
encounter, indicates that the staging of the whole scene of seduction was 
intended primarily for the benefit of those onlookers who should remain in awe 
of such brash and unconventional sexual mores. Furthermore, the very present 
element of violence within Marinetti's seduction, again, of his very own wife, 
alerts us to the fact that the whole staging aims to benefit that third party removed 
from the events being played out on stage. The rather ludicrous, if not disturbing, 
need for Marinetti's introduction of violence into what should be a consensual 
relationship, points to his unease that somehow his seduction may not be "virile" 
enough. Marinetti remarks to Maria at one point. 

Ma penso alla tua piccola anima senza difesa che si dà soltanto se vien 
presa colla violenza. ... E il tuo corpo, lo stesso!. . . . Strano! Mi pare che sia 
alla mercè di chiunque voglia impadronirsene brutalmente! . . . Eh, 
si! ... Tu sei e sarai sempre a disposizione dei ladri, come il pianterreno di 
una villa isolata nella campagna. . . In una sera di temporale, come questa, la 



26 CARTE ITALIANE 



tua volontà non esiste più. . . . (ES 26-27) 

Only in the presence of violence, and a male audience to vouch for its 
legitimacy, can Marinetti's seduction redeem itself as worthy of Futurism. Nor 
does his schematically ideal seduction stop here. Elettricità sessuale marks the 
entrance of the element of the mechanical in Futurist literature, which comes to 
fruition only later, with works such as L'alcova d'acciaio and Mafarka. 
Riccardo Marinetti states that his idea is to "frammischiare i miei fantocci alla 
nostra vita e al nostro amore," thereby gradually assuming the roles of the real 
people that surround him — "essi riassumono e sostituiscono, per me, tutta 
l'umanità, e ormai non desidero più vedere i miei simili, quando sono con 
te . . . Con loro" (ES 31,34). The only real presences that Marinetti requires other 
than his own are that of the woman, now strictly an object, a prop, and the male 
audience to lend significance and legitimacy to the performance. As Marinetti 
yells at the end, casting the two dolls into the sea, "Famiglia e Matrimonio, vlan, 
dalla finestra," leaving upon the stage — and within the theater — the three basic 
elements of Futurist seduction: seducer, woman, and audience (ES 37). 

6. Come si seducono le donne and Seductively True Stories of Seduction 

Come si seducono le donne, first published in 1917, removes the audience 
of Girardian thirds one degree fiirther away from yiarìwQiiìseduttore . The self- 
styled "self-help manual" recounts the exploits of the hypervirile main proponent 
of Futurism as told to a third, namely Bruno Corra, who transcribed the dictated 
text.^^ The fact that the text purportedly represents a libro vissuto, the veracity 
of which is vouched for by Corra and Settimelli in their laudatory preface, lends 
itself quite easily to its consumption as autobiographical spectacle by an audience 
desirous of enfranchisement in the Futurist seductive fold. The foregrounding 
within the text of such boastfiil claims of seduction leaves little choice for those 
male readers who take seriously the Futurist discourse but to take up Marinetti 
on his challenge to prove their own virility. Come si seducono le donne is in 
many ways a co-opting tex1. Regardless of how it might be read by a man, the 
text succinctly manages to cali into question the male reader's heterosexual 
psyche. This forces the male reader, who compares his behavior to that of the 
hyperbolically hypervirile Futurist male, to evaluate his own virility and, as 
Marinetti himself must have hoped, to contemplate future action concordant 
with the Futurist agenda. 

Of the two instances of seduction within the text that I wish to examine in 
detail, the first concems itself with ali of the classically Futurist elements we have 
thus far uncovered. One of Marinetti's first conquests within the text is that of 
the young American woman. Miss Maery [sic] , who Marinetti describes as being 



AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SEDUCTION AND FUTURISM 27 



"priva di ogni passatismo nostalgico" {CSD 54). Thus she is identifiable as a 
woman worthy of being Futurist prey, as she does not manifest any of the 
remnants of the decadent dannunzianismo that so imperils the Futurist seducer. 
Indeed, "passatismo nostalgico" can also be read more simply as being any 
inhibitive scruples which might complicate the velocity and high degree of 
synthesis of the beloved Futurist sexual encounter. However, potentially 
disastrous — and gravely unfortunate — an event arises, or fails to: Marinetti 
fmds himself impotent and incapable of either rapidly or synthetically concluding 
the sexual act. Exasperated and "senza amore," Marinetti, incapable of 
conquest, fmds himself slowly being entrapped by the overly effeminate. In vain, 
to cure his impotence brought on by an overdose of decadent indulgence, he 
searches the horizon for the sight of the one thing which would restore him as 
a Futurist male — a machine gun {CSD 55). 

Symbolic of the violence and "quel bisogno di pericolo, di agguato, di lotta" 
that lends legitimacy to Futurist sexual relations, the presence of a machine gun 
would assuage the fears of the Futurist male in crisis. Like Riccardo Marinetti's 
fantocci elettrici, a machine gun would heighten desire ("intensificare il sapore 
della tua bocca") and, more importantly, guarantee the virility of the act within 
the strict guidelines of the movement {CSD 38, 55). Turning the event to his own 
advantage, Marinetti now blames the woman for his own inability to perform, 
chastising Miss Maery who, in perhaps a trope on American neutrality, lies 
"come un Luigi dimenticato sul tappetto verde di una tavola da gioco senza 
giocatori e senza croupiers," failing completely to understand what Marinetti 
seeks to accomplish. Marinetti in the end leaves her, the inert playing card, quite 
abruptly, exclaiming more to himself and to his reading audience, than to she 
who seems not to understand (" Je ne comprends pas," she answers to his Futurist 
ranting in Italian) "Tu devi adornare la tua bellezza di guerra ... sei incompleta" 
{CSD 55-56). 

Interestingly enough, Corra takes leave of Marinetti at this point, perhaps 
disgusted with his exaggerations. Regardless of this, Marinetti perseveres in his 
seductive quest — "Lo saluto e me ne vado a domandar consiglio alla carne rosea 
di una amica olandese, sensuale, pronta. . . ." — so virile is the text at this point 
that it proceeds autonomously {CSD 56-57). Even Corra, on the verge of 
relating a uccessful seduction of Marinetti's, is demoted to the rank of mere 
spectator, of audience, as the writing proves itself capable of continuing on, even 
without the very necessary presence of someone to transcribe it. Marinetti prides 
himself on his next encounter precisely because it fiinctions so well within the 
Futurist scheme of seduction. Immediately after a minimalist account of the act 
itself ("dopo averla presa, baciata, rovesciata, senza svestirsi") follows a 
parenthetical description of its accompanying noise, to which are dedicated an 



28 CARTE ITALIANE 



equal number of words ("al tinnire dei miei speroni di bombardiere"), thus 
proving the element of war within seduction to be of equal textual importance 
(CSD 57). The carnai assault on the Dutch woman proves tobe far more complete 
an encounter than the previous for more than physical reasons. The jingle of 
Marinetti's spurs alludes to the violence of the coupling with a married woman 
within the pages of a supposedly autobiographical text. This implies, for ali 
intents and purposes, three things: the betrayal of the woman' s husband, the 
hoodwinked Mr. Marriage; the prostration of a woman at a Futurist's feet; and 
the presence of violence so sacrosanct for the deed. It is, in brief, a perfect 
example of a Futurist seduction. The success of this case of seduction is far better 
chronicled within the pages of Come si seducono le donne than the previous 
failure, as an analysis of the seven word sexual act follows its relation, proving 
how well it fits into the pre-established Futurist script. "La donna senza la guerra 
è una rivoltella scarica," Marinetti remarks, claiming in this manner that his 
impotence in the previous encounter with the American woman came about 
because the element of war was absent from the scene {CSD 59). Without war 
there can be no seduction for Futurism because there would be no point to it, as 
without war — without violence bom of homophobia — a seduction would never 
be credible for the audience, nor would they as the Girardian third have reason 
to admire or emulate it. 

The Dutch woman represents in many ways the ideal Futurist lover: she 
admires male velocity and violence — "Amami pure guerrescamente e 
sinteticamente. Mi piace." — and accepts readily the role assigned to her by her 
hypervirile partner {CSD 60). She does catch on to this; "Tu consideri le donne 
come delle stazioni ferroviarie," she remarks, sparking however an even more 
insightfiil comment by Marinetti, "Talvolta non sono che dei tunnels!" {CSD 
60). The idea ofwomen as tunnels, as devices, asthe fópoi'of passage, fits equally 
well into the Futurist scheme of seduction as did that of war. A few lines below 
on the same page, Marinetti speaks of the expansion of Futurism as a movement, 
in which they, the Futurists, "Si sventrarono le montagne coi trafori spiralici." 
Again, the tunnel, disemboweled nature, here in the proper Italian "trafori," as 
woman, serves as a means of passage through which the Futurist man can 
proceed in his conquest. 

7. Un ventre di donna and a Final Literary Seduction 

Enif Robert, who published Un ventre di donna with the assistance of 
Marinetti in 1 9 1 9, responds in many ways to the seductive spectacles of Futurist 
literature. As she wrote in the theoretically polemic epilogue to Come si 
seducono le donne, she disagrees with Marinetti 'sp^^^è definition of seduction, 
as it excludes the possibility that a woman may give herself in of her own free 



AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SEDUCTION AND FUTURISM 29 



will and volition to the wants of man. Futurist seduction, as far as Robert is 
concerned in her Lettera aperta a F. T. Marinetti, is no more than a figment of 
the male psyche, used as an "illusione di dominio."" 

Robert's choice of autobiography as genre reflects in many ways her sincere 
desire to join the Futurist literary ranks, as it can best trace metaphorically — as 
indeed Un ventre di donna does — one's growth and development to that point 
of the "summary moment of composition." Her apparent susceptibility to being 
seduced, on which she prides herelf, causes her to lose sight of the inherent perils 
of such a seduction within the greater scope of its filli range of meanings for 
Futurism. Although naive is far too strong a word to be used with Robert, her 
ardent desire to be part of the Futurist triangle of seduction — to be what Futurism 
wants her as a woman to be — indicates that she gave little thought to the filli 
implications of her actions. 

Un ventre di donna portrays to a large extent the irony of what role a Futurist 
woman's autobiography, albeit allegorical, can play. I argue that female 
accounts of Futurist seduction prove little more than the effectiveness of the 
entrapping seductive powers of Futurist literature, and not, as Robert believes, 
the great liberating aspects of Futurism. Whilst reading of Robert's self- 
proclaimed "CORAGGIO + VERITÀ" it is important to remember that the text 
itself was subject to prostration at the metaphorical feet of Marinetti-as-editor's 
pen; his "Approvo incondizionatamente," followed by his signature, at the tail- 
end of the introduction attests to this.^" 

Enif Robert's textual illness appears to center around her very own gender, 
as reflected in her despondent comment at the beginning of the work, "Che 
schifo, essere un utero sofferente, mentre tutti gli uomini si battono!" {UVD 25). 
Her illness appears to be compounded by what can only be described as gender 
constipation: Robert is held back in life and in health by her inability to evacuate 
from within her the pain and sufifering she endures, most of which seems 
centered around her uterus — her femininity. 

Despite the numerous operations she undergoes, as her female reproductive 
organs are slowly removed bit by bit, Robert's condition seems to do little else 
but worsen. It is one of Robert's doctors who eventually makes the correct 
diagnosis of her condition: "Ecco: per quanto sia diffìcile definirla, dirò che lei 
mi sembra un cervello troppo virile in un corpo troppo femminile" {UVD 97). 
Thus her sickness, that which hinders her most in life, is precisely the female 
vessel in which her virile — her Futurist — brain has been deposited. Her solution 
and definitive cure is two-fold: surgical and textual. To pass time during her long 
stays in the hospital, Robert begins to read Futurist books, brought by her friend 
Lucia. She also begins to correspond with Marinetti himself, who writes her 
from the front, that theater of war upon which are traced the scarred trenches. 



30 



CARTE ITALIANE 



inviting contrast with the theater of sexuality that is Robert, upon whose 
abdomen are traced trenches of scars. In addition, Robert keeps in frequent 
contact with Eleonora Duse, the donna fatale archenemy of Futurist sexuality, 
ali the while fending off virai attacks from the nuns of the convent, ali eager to 
convert her, the "atea convinta," to Catholicism. Thus within Robert — and upon 
Robert the woman, topos of struggle and conquest — several conti ngents of 
contending forces do battle: Futurism, femininity, Catholicism, and 
dannunzianismo. 

The first sign of victory comes in the form of delirium, the description of 
which provides for one of the most compelling portraits of Futurist seductions, 
if not the most scandalous. As she thinks of Zang-tumb-tumb lying next to / 
miracoli della Madonna di Lourdes, both on her bedside table, Robert begins to 
fantasize about the struggle between the two works: 

Infine, nella mia fantasticheria, la dolce Madonna aveva ceduto 
completamete il campo al lirismo incendiario e guerresco di Marinetti, alle sua 
mordenti ironie. {UVD 47) 

The seduction of the Madonna, and by extension of Robert herself, occurs 
primarily by means of the printed Futurist text, vindicating the seductive 
intentionality of Marinetti in writing such works. To continue along the path to 
recovery, Marinetfi suggests that she take the "cura del desiderio," in which 
incessant desire alone can cure her illness. Robert takes this Futurist cure to 
heart, developing a desire of her own — "il più assurdo, il più difficile, il più 
lontano, quello di diventare . . . una scrittrice futurista!" {UVD 134). This dream 
of authority, this dream of text, comes to symbolize the whole of Un ventre dì 
donna, as the book can be read as nothing more than a "monument of the self as 
it is becoming."" To reach this goal, as does Giorgina Rossi in Una donna con 
tre anime, Robert must undergo fiirther operations, as her being a female stili 
impedes hér passage to authorship. Like the mountains that block the Futurist 
locomotive of progress, Robert, too, must be disemboweled — "sventrata" — 
leaving only her vagina, that crude tunnel through which Futurist man can 
travel, proving his virility as he proceeds towards future conquests. 

Proof that Robert is finally cured, finally hollowed of her femininity, can be 
found in a letter she writes to Marinetti, starkly contrasting her initial auto- 
diagnosis quoted earlier: "Vorrei alzarmi, andare in guerra, in trincea, sparare, 
uccidermi, finirla. Sono stuuuufaV {CSD 192). 

Robert is fiilly seduced by Marinetti by the end, as attested by her no longer 
being a woman, but merely a "tunnel," according to the definition we read in 
Come si seducono le donne. In order to save her femininity, Enif Robert has to 
destroy it, lest she fail to fulfiU her role as a Futurist woman. Her conscious 



AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SEDUCTION AND FUTURISM 31 



acquiescence to the seductive powers of Futurist literature implies her loss of 
identity as a vvoman: Enif Robert, female, writes herself out of her own 
femininity. 

To conclude, the example of EnifRobert demonstrates the functioning of the 
seductive aspect of Futurist texts, as she appears anxious to join the movement 
based on its purely Hterar>' appeal. Perhaps unknovvn to Robert was the way in 
which the co-optive powers of Futurism worked, in that her own text stands as 
a monument not to any feminine aspect of Futurism, but rather to its triumph as 
a very virile and masculine movement. The leverage exerted by the Futurist 
seductive S)'stem enables the enfranchisement of even women, who seemingly 
have little to gain by courting the violence of the Futurist seduttore. The Futurist 
cause upon the stage of the theatre of war and sex, where such spectacles were 
apt to take place, even metaphoric as such, is thereby furthered. The theatrical 
nature of autobiographical accounts of Futurist seductions — even within works 
written by women — allowed Futurism to successfully define seduction as what 
it is even etymologically — se+ducere — the leading along with one's self. The 
ominous presence of the stem due- should not be read as being coincidental, as 
// Duce himself availed himself of the Futurist idea of seduction in coming to 
power four years after the publication ofCome si seducono le donne, providing 
perhaps the first correct criticai reading of what the ulterior motives of Futurism 
really were: seduction and subordination within a structural rigidity. 
Andrew Bridges 
Department ofitalian 
University of California, Los Angeles 



Notes 

^Teoria e invenzione futurista 10. Ali further references to this work shall be noted 
parenthetically within the text as TIF. 

2Re 254. 

^Come si seducono le donne 23. Ali further references to this work shall be noted 
parenthetically within the text as CSD. 

"Spackman 92-93. 

^Fido 168. 

*01ney 35. 

■'Lyotard 2. 

^Sedgwick 6. 

^Spackman 96. 

'°Salaris 37. 

"Sedgwick 3. 



32 CARTE ITALIANE 



'^Spackman 86. 

'^Spackman 83. 

'■*Sedgwick 3, 5. 

"Nazzaro 100, emphasis mine. 

'*Gilmore 18. 

'^Sedgwick 23. 

'«Sedgwick 87. 

'lazzaro 100. 

^^Elettricità sessuale 5. Ali further references to this work shall be noted 
parenthetically within the text as ES. 

^'According to Teoria e invenzione futurista, La donna è mobile was presented on 
stage in Turin that very year, a reduction of Poupèes èlectriques. 

^^Spackman 97. 

^^Lettera aperta a F. T. Marinetti iii. 

^*Un ventre di donna xv. Ali further references to this work shall be noted 
parenthetically within the text as UVD. 

"Olney 35. 



Works Cited 

Fido, Franco. "At the Origins of Autobiography in the 18th and 19th Centuries: The 

Topoi of the Self" Annali d'italianistica 4 (1986): 168. 
Gilniore, David D. Manhood in the Making. New Haven: Yale UP, 1990. 
Lyotard, Jean-Fran90is. The Lyotard Reader. Ed. Andrew Benjamin. Oxford: Basii 

Blackwell, 1989. 
Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso. Elettricità sessuale. Milan: Pacchi, 1920. 

. Teoria e invenzione futurista . Ed. Luciano De Maria. Milan: Mondadori, 1968. 

. Come si seducono le donne. Rocca San Casciano: Capp., 1918. 

Martin, Marianne W. Futurist Art and Theory: 1909-1915. Oxford: Clarendon, 1968. 
Nazzaro, G. B. "Da Come si seducono le donne a Novelle colle labbra tinte: la disfatta 

dell'ideologia e le nuove emergenze nel testo." F. T. Marinetti Futurista. Naples: 

Guida, 1977. 
Olney, James. Metaphors of Self The Meaning of Autobiography. Princeton: 

Princeton UP, 1972. 
Perioff, Marjorie. The Futurist Moment. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986. 
Raleigh, A. S. Woman and Superwoman. Chicago: Hermetic Publishing, 1916. 
Re, Lucia. "Futurism and Feminism." AnnaU d'italianistica 1 (198): 253. 
Robert, Enif. Un ventre di donna. Milan: Coop. Grafica degli Operai, 1919. 
Rosa, Rosa. Una donna con tre anime. Milan: Edizioni della Donna, 1981. 
Salaris, Claudia. Le futuriste. Milan: Edizioni della Donna, 1982. 
Sedgwick, Ève Kosofsky. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial 

Desire. New York: Columbia UP, 1985. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SEDUCTION AND FUTURISM 33 



Sexism of Social and Politicai Theory, The. Eds. Lorenne M. G. Clark and Lynda Lange. 

Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1979. 
Spackman, Barbara. "The Fascist Rhetoric of Virility." Stanford Italian Review 8 

(1990): 81. 
Tisdall, Caroline and Angelo Bozzoia. Futurisrtt. London: Thames and Hudson, 1977. 
Women in Western Politicai Philosophy. Eds. Ellen Kennedy and Susan Mendus. 

Sussex: Wheatsheaf Books, 1987. 



Figaro 

+ 

SIGARO 

SFIGARO 



L'amore — ossessione romantica e voluttà — non è altro che un invenzione dei 
poeti, i quali la regalarono all'umanità. ... E saranno i poeti che all'umanità 
lo ritoglieranno. . . . Filippo Tomaso Marinetti 

L'uomo le inventa per l'illusione di dominio, di superiorità, per l'istinto 
aggressivo di conquistare sempre qualcuno o qualcosa: la donna lascia credere 
che ciò sia vero perché quasi sempre le fa comodo adoperare la propria 
debolezza apparente come un'arma fra le sue più valide. Enif Robert 

Despite the obvious misogyny ("il disprezzo della donna") ingrained in the 
agenda of the 1909 Manifesto del futurismo, Enif Robert, as other (albeit few) 
women writers, not only engaged in a discourse with Futurism, but sought out 
a space amongst "i poeti che all'umanità lo ritoglieranno."' After some debate 
on the issue, Marinetti qualified "il disprezzo della donna" as a "contempt" for 
woman as the icon of decadence, which he attributed to ìhefin-de-siècle writers 
(specifically Gabriele D'Annunzio). Marinetti and Robert converge in their 
"contempt" for the unhygienic/decadent positioning of woman as the "femme 
fatale," the bourgeois wife and the nurturing mother (mammismo). As a result, 
both Robert and Marinetti glorify virility and aggressiveness. However, the two 
Futurists' contempt of the un-hygienic diverges in respect to Marinetti 's fear of 
the engulfment of not only "uomo-torpediniera," but also the "follarisacca" in 
the "donna-golfo." Robert reacts not to a fear of the "vagina dentata," but to the 
socially conditioned "debolezza" and imprisonment of women. Thus, for Robert 
denaturalizes the pre-existing phallocratic or dominant mode of representation, 
exposing "l'illusione di dominio."^ 

Although Marinetti 's "Contro l'amore e il parlamentarismo" considers this 
"inferiorità" of "women" to be the efifect of "questa [schiavitù che] avessero 
subito, attraverso una lunga serie di generazioni," he does not advocate the 



34 



HGARO + SIGARO = SFIGARO 35 



liberation of women, but the reduction of vvomen to the "funzione conservatrice 
della specie." Marinetti substitutes the threatening fatai, amorous woman with 
the more animalistic naturai woman who is once again objectified (domesticated) 
as the vessel of man's reproductive capacity — a mere bodily extension of the 
male productive powers. Embracing the Futurists' rejection of the socially 
debased woman, yet opposing the reduction of woman to a reproductive role, 
Robert's self-situating as a "donna futurista" corresponds directly to a desire for 
gender repositioning: a radicai transformation which must unmask bourgeois 
sexual politics as "l'illusione di dominio." Robert calls for a demystification of 
gender roles, and for allowing women to prove their intellectual virility to equal 
that of man. Robert's experimental novel Un ventre di donna expresses her 
repudiation of the subordinate emplotment of women as the vessel of man's seed 
by thematizing the eradication of female fecundity (the unmaking of the womb), 
disclosing a stronger desire for equality — an attempt to prove that women can 
be "anche vive, coraggiose, forti, VIRILI, INTELLIGENTI, a fianco del loro 
maschio."^ However, inclusion in the futurist movement entails a collapse of 
sexual difference and a movement toward what Luce Irigaray calls "sameness." 

Robert does not assume the role historically assigned to the feminine, nor 
does she accept the one assigned by Marinetti and company. However, her direct 
feminine challenge to these historical conditions paradoxically leads to the 
demand to speak as a (masculine) "subject." Robert does not provide a disruption 
of masculine (phallocratic) discourse, but rather a validation of that very 
discourse by attempting to become part of it. Hence Robert rejects the mimicry 
of female roles only for another mimetic role — this time under the guise of a man. 
As Susan Suleiman explains, it is not enough to simply assume a subject position 
and "take over a stock of images established by the male imaginary . . in order 
to innovate she has to invent her own position as subject and elaborate her own 
set of images.'"' Although Robert does "write the body" — using her own body 
as a textual reference — this writing of the body becomes a destructive process 
aimed at the purging of what she considers the un-hygienic (womb) which will 
then allow her to be cured and become equal to man — emasculated via the 
process of writing. More importantly, she eliminates the barring symbol of 
nature and fecundity which poses a threat to the paranoid fiiturist movement. 

Enif Robert's Un ventre di donna, her only published fictional work (1919), 
as Claudia Slaris explains: "vuole essere un esempio di come la donna può 
descrivere se stessa adottando un stile sintetico-realistico, e propone un modello 
di eroina vitalistico-ottimista."' However, this "modello di eroina" as well as 
Robert's "descrizione di se stessa" parrots (or pirates) the destructive and 
aggressive "fervore, coraggio e la forza assoluta" outlined in "Il Manifesto del 
Futurismo," which was designed to exalt a masculine productivity at the expense 



36 CARTE ITALIANE 



of fcmalc (rc)productivity. This proccss of "fuluri/ation" [sic] cnlails a radicai 
ncgation ofollicrncss (scxual difTcrcncc), noi only morphologically, bui also 
anatoiiiically Thiis, for Robert, in ordcr for wonicn lo liberate theniselvcs from 
(he chains oftlie old "illusione di dominio" thcy must transcend the limitations 
of the Temale body and social conditioning to reach a hcrmaphroditic, supcrior 
state of prodiictivity, which docs not just simply re-produce, but actively 
produccs a new consciousness for women. 

Un ventre di donna, formalistically constnicted as a collage of diary and 
epistolary narrative styles, rcpresents a fusion of the privale or individuai 
consciousness with a dialogic and diagnostic adaptation of futurism. The diary- 
slyled vvriting documents the discontent of a thirty-year-old bourgeois woman, 
her struggle with abdominal cancer and her intellectual battle against the 
maladiesof bourgeois society. Asa private forni of vvriting, Roberl's diary traccs 
and visuali/cs her own understanding of the epistemologica! rupture from the 
decadence of [he Jìn-dc-.\icclc to the "movimento futurista" — a transcendcnce of 
whatMarinetticallcdthc"fontana malata" toa"coscicnze molteplici e simultanee 
in uno stesso individuo."'' Hence, like Marinelli, Robert turns in the (diseased) 
idcalistic and statuesque "bello della Vittoria di Samotracia," for the velocity and 
e.xplosiveness of the automobile, the "passione, arte e idealismo dello sport. "^ In 
correspondence with the epislemological nipture, the te.xt thematically splils in 
half: while Robert delegates half of the text to the dcstruction of the infeclious, 
"dead forms" of the old order, the other half, cspecially the ending, presents the 
emergence of the heroine in the "new order " Physical and mental pain bccome 
the bridge in this evolution, leading the heroine away from death into a new 
(future) life — "passione e arte." 

The cpislolar\'-styled narration mirrors this textual splitting by presenting 
twodistinct dialogues: the first, an imaginar\ e.xchange with Elenora Duse, who 
rcpresents the antithetical model of the D'Annun/.ian woman which Robert 
ultimately rejects; and the second, a real exchangc of lettcrs with Marinelli, (then 
figlìting in the trenchcs of World War 1), provides both a prescriplive cure for the 
heroines condition and an epislemological sennn for her to consume. The text, 
as the body ofthe heroine herself, displaysthe personali/ationand internali/ation 
of the suficring and pain causcd by the social and physical confines of 
"bourgeois" culture and the physically degcnerated forni of womanhood 
(symbolized by the utems). At the sanie time, this physical suffering transforms 
itself into a metaphorical struggle against a series of social convcntions: "la lotta 
contro una medicina che la ignora, la guerra al moralismo piccolo borghese, la 
comparasi», in luogo della figure della madre sentimentale, del mito vital- 
erncicntistico della feconda/ione."" Although the body is the locus of this battle, 
it is the purging or ejcction of thcsc forms of "debole/./a" which leads to the 



FIGARO + SIGARO = SFIGARO 37 



rcmaking of the hcroinc as a "futurista," not in body, but in spirit. By privilcging 
the spirit or mind over the body, Robert detaches herself from the limitations of 
the feminine body, rendering the female body as a surface of social inscriptions 
vvhich must bc painfully carved out in order not only to prove endurance, but also 
to transcend "femininity" ahogether. 

This mind/body spht is foregrounded not only in the "body" of the text, but 
also in the placemcnt of Ihcauthorial voice. Un ventre di donna, although 
priniarily written by Robert wilh the exception of a series of letters by Marinetti, 
is co-signed by Marinetti. In addition, the framing of the text as an object 
privilcges Marinetti 's signature, vvhich appears first apparently giving the text 
more validity and authority, yet it simultaneously confuses the position of the 
authorial voice. While the appearance of Marinetti's signature provides an 
authori/ation of the text, it is his "Name" vvhich bccomcs the symbol of mastery, 
displacing Robcrt's originai position as author. Furthermore. not only docs 
Robert use Marinetti's "Name," but she posits him as the authority (master, 
doctor, healer, guide) of the Futurist discourse in vvhich she engages. Whether 
consciously or unconsciously, Robert re-establishes a hicrarchy, (whcrc man 
speaks and vvoman mimics), advancing a strategy of invisibleness in relation to 
the authoritative voice of hcr own text, prccisely bccausc she has assimilatcd to 
a masculinc model, vvhich undermines her position as "subject" within hcr own 
discourse. The problemoPT illusione di dominio," insteadofbeingundermi ned 
by the Futurist movemcnt, re-emerges as a more extreme and aggressive 
domination of the masculinc imaginary over the female body and mind. Un 
ventre di donna, as Robert herself, becomes a mouthplcce, an instrument through 
vvhich Futurism speaks and experiments on the female body and mind Rathcr 
than speaking in a position of mastery, it speaks through a series of inscriptions. 
The objectification of the body as a reference to the (dis)placed self indirectly 
amounts to the mimicking of a subordinate role — the female as receptaclc, a 
receplaclc of not only the bourgeois morbus, but also a receptaclc of/for Futurist 
indoctrinations (at the expense of sexual difference). Hovvever, as Luce Irigaray 
explains: 

The "receptaclc" receives the marks of everything, understands and includcs 
everything— exccpt itself . . . The receptaclc can reproduce everything, mime 
everything, exccpt it.self, it is the womb of mimicry.' 

Therefore, as a receptaclc of Futurist critique and (re-)education, Robert 
ironically inverts her originai intention (bccoming one and the sanie as man) to 
that of an analysis of the maladies of Futurism. 

Although Robert acknowledges a certain violencc of reprcsentation in the 



38 CARTE ITALIANE 



image of woman invented by ihQ fin-de-siècle j)oets, she does not launch an 
attack against the process of representation itself, but takes the images (the 
products themselves) as the focus for her critique. As a consequence, instead of 
dismantling the apparatus of representation Robert dismembers the female 
body — the object of representation — leaving the feminine in the realm of 
fragmentation and suffering. By remaining within a strictly phallocratic 
discourse, Robert reveals the "lack" of a feminine-gendered speaking subject, a 
lack of self-definition and discourse space. Without symbolic placement or 
feminine discourse, "La donna lascia credere che ciò sia vero perché quasi 
sempre le fa più comodo adoperare la propria debolezza apparente come un'arma 
fra le sue più valide." Adriana Cavarero explains that within the phallocratic or 
symbolic discourse: 

Woman is not the subject of her language, her language is not hers. She 
therefore speaks and represents herself in a language not her own, that is 
through the categories of the other [in this case in reference to the phallus], she 
thìnks herself as thought by the other. . . Discourse carries the sign of its subject, 
the speaking subject who in discourse speaks himself and speaks a world 
starting from himself.'" 

Thus sexual differene masks an erasure of the discourse of the other (in this case 
the femiiùne). It is precisely this masquerade of sexual difference which Robert 
collapses in her drive for that which Irigaray calls "Sameness" — the desire to 
articulate herself as one (a masculine speakinq subject). However, in this 
unmasking of the masculine economy of representation (a violence enacted on 
a silenced other), Robert does not appropriate the site of sexual difference and 
hence exploitation (the female body), but exposes it as an open wound, an 
absence, a lack, a silence. Robert mimics the violence of representation, directed 
at her own sex and body. 

Although Un ventre di donna does not lend itself too easily to the agenda of 
modem feminism, it poses and foregrounds many problems plaguing feminists 
today, such as the question of female subjectivity (authorial voice) and the 
question of writing the body — whether it is possible to write without speaking 
as a masculine subject and whether it is possible to write the body without 
violating the body in some profound way. I will discuss Robert's Un ventre di 
donna in relation to the agenda of Futurism, since it not only appropriates 
Futurist discourse and stance in regard to women, but is formed as an intra/ 
intertextual discourse with Marinetti. Therefore, instead of attempting to 
incorporate Robert into feminist discourse, I read Un ventre di donna as an ironie 
text which exposes a series of contradictions, neuroses, male-paranoias and 
ultimately a schizophrenic polemical practice, present not only in Robert's 



FIGARO + SIGARO = SFIGARO 39 



writing, but also embedded within Futurist discourse itself. Although I may be 
treating Robert's intentions unjustly by readinq the text as an ironie mimicry of 
a predominantly masculinist and misogynist Avant-garde movement, I feel it is 
more beneficiai to pursue the aspect of mimicry where I can interpret the 
intemalization of misogyny which amounts to a rigorous self-critique bordering 
on self-hatred and self-mutilation as a symptom of the desire for "Sameness," 
rather than a necessary step in the process of women's liberation. That is not to 
say that Robert's critique of the status of women is not valid as a necessary 
process of exposing the logie of othering — the act of representing and henee 
reducing others (in this case women) to universal mythic categories. The 
problem lies in the conversion of a self-critique into a self-hatred, the rendering 
of the feminine as the un-hygienic wound. Therefore, I will divide my analysis 
of the text in accordance with its structural and thematic splitting: the unmaking 
of wom(b)an, and the making of the "donna futurista," wom( )an, where tlie body 
as woman is left in the realm of pain and 'il vuoto assoluto." 

Un ventre di donna reflects the conflicting desires and aspirations of 
Futurism, which articulate a sadistic destruction of the amorous and consuming 
"fatale femme" [sic] and equally fatai mother, displacing the desire for woman 
(as a sexual object) to the (masochistic) machine and the image of the mother 
from the anatomical nurturing body to the metaphysical mystic or "fuliggini 
celesti," un "Materno fossato quasi pieno di un'acqua fangosa."" While the 
stripping of the real woman fromthese (bourgeois) mythic modelsof representation 
merely returns woman to another set of myths (sending the form of woman into 
a metaphysical abstraction), this dialectic of symbolic images contains within it 
a subversive potential — demythification of universalizing mythic categories in 
the dominant institutions of bourgeois culture. However, the aim of Futurism is 
not to liberate women from the "prostitituzione legale" and the "mascherata di 
ipocrisie" of the family; instead it is a liberation of the male from an infectious 
feminization of society.'^ 

Robert clearly agrees with the Futurists, that the moralistic and "fatale" 
woman (such as Elenora Duse) symbolizes death in life. Robert distances herself 
from these "cadaveri vestiti di pellicce calde" by allying herself with the Futurists 
in their cali for a radicai and violent negation of the seuctive power of the 
vampiric woman. '^ However, for her this negation is not a radicai separation of 
the sexes (as the Futurists demand), but a dialectical transcendence from a 
constituted identity (a demeaning stereotype) to a more superior identity (a desire 
for masculine power), in order to liberate women from their stereotypical role as 
"le donne che divorano il sesso dei prigionieri italiani" ( 1 70). Robert vehemently 
criùques those women who accommodate themselves to "la propria debolezza" — 
a pre-established role, inherently "weak" since it is not self-created, but 



40 CARTE ITALIANE 



reproduced. For Robert, as for the Futurists, seduclion is a secondary power — 
a passive power that traps and consumes "unadulterated" masculine power is 
active, pene-trating, cutting — come "la rosa spada del sole che schermeggia per 
la prima volta." Futurism adopts a Sadian model, equating the mother/woman 
with secondary nature — soft molecules which are subject to the laws of creation, 
conservation, reproduction, and death. Hence the mother/feminine symbolizes 
the antithesis of masculine potency. Gilles Deleuze explains that within the logie 
of sadism the father by contrast, "represents intrinsically primary nature, which 
is beyond ali constituted order and is made up of wild lacerating molecules that 
carry disorder and anarchy."'" Thus, at the same time the father acts on the 
severity of his agency, he destroys order, law and the institution of the family, 
marking the end of procreation and the commencement of the Sadian automation. 
Within the Deleuzian understanding of the Sadian economy, it foUows that men 
belong to nature only via "social conservatism," and are subject to sadistic 
violence only insofar as they depart from their "essential" anarchie nature 
(becoming part of what Robert calls the "cretinismo maschile e di pudori"), while 
women become the sadistic victimspar excellence, since they are victimized for 
upholding their "true nature." However, the Futurists distinguish between the 
essential (anatomical) and the normative (morphological) formations of iden- 
tity: Valentine Saint-Point argues, "È ASSURDO DIVIDERE L'UMANITÀ IN 
DONNE E UOMINI; essa è composta soltanto di FEMMINILITÀ e di 
MASCOLINITÀ."" Despite the fact that the Futurists believe women are made 
and not bom, ie. gender is not an innate feature (as sex maybe), but a socio- 
cultural construction, and precisely for that reason is oppressive to women, the 
Futurists do not explode the pre-existing content of essentialist ideology, but 
authorize the patriarchial hegemony, in yet a more extreme, "pure" manifes- 
tation. While the Futurists attempt to deconstruct the mechanisms of othering/ 
engendering of the sexes, they collapse sexual difiference into the economy of the 
same — paradoxically validating the traditionally established "essential" qualities 
of man. Rather than exploring the fluidity of difiference, Futurism calls for the 
negation of the poetics of the body and a promotion of its regimentation and 
mechanization. 

Along with the debased power of seduction which primarily preys off the 
desires of the flesh, Robert rejects the libidinal drives of the female body as 
deficient, passive, self-embracing rather than "lacerating," astransferring desire 
to the realm of self-expression: "spiego con ardore la mia passione del nuovo. Le 
mie impressioni sul Futurismo come caotica forma d'avanguardia" (93). Instead 
of reproducing herself as the seductive woman who is also devoured by the 
prisons of bourgeois institutions — the "prostituzione legale" of the family, 
parliament or a victim of (mis)representation — Robert explores the "passione 



FIGARO + SIGARO = SFIGARO 41 



via arte" which she attributes to the Futurists, a passion that is inextricably tied 
to anarchie actions, a passion (a pure agency) that cannot accumulate, possess 
or consume, but one that must risk (if not demand) its own destruction. This 
Futuristic passion reacts against an infinite continuity (as passivism) with a (de- 
humanized) desire for infinite destruction, based on the principle that one cannot 
possess what is lost. '* Destruction becomes the only vald expenditure of energy; 
a violence that does not distinguish itself along politicai lines, but defines itself 
as a binary opposite of the passive yet consumìng feminine. 

For Robert these objectless passions and desires are expressed through a 
"caotica forma d'avanguardia," a chaos designed to revolutionize the old 
(romantic or nostalgie) order which left her trapped in "il vuoto assoluto," where 
as "una vedova e bella a venticinque anni avrei duovuto subire la legge 
impostami dalla società e specialmente dalle mie amiche rimaritarmi" (3, 
emphasis mine). Hovvever, this process of de-objectification of desire is prefaced 
with physical pain. It is only through a sadistic economy of destruction or 
"laceration" that the Futurists move beyond the possessive order and accu- 
mulative desires; however, Robert reflects this process as an intemalization of 
this sadistic economy, where pain becomes the only means of interrupting the 
placement of women within the boargeois code of social behavior. Futurism's 
movement away from the communal (the emotional and the objectification of the 
perceptual) world leaves (especially) woman, who has no discursive historical 
reference, with no other referent but the human body — being acted upon, 
inscribed on. Thus, without emasculating herself — adopting phallocentric 
discourse — Robert would be left in the silence of pain, with no objects of her own. 

Robert does not embrace the ideal of the mechanization of the male body as 
much as the move to strip away the "old" regimes which imprison the female 
within her body. However, Robert does not advocate the liberation of the female 
body nor the mechanization of the female body (which would merely replace her 
to the "funzione conservatrice della specie"), rather she focuses on chaos as a 
violent disruption of the bourgeois regimes, where the female body itself 
becomes a necessari' sacrifice for liberation. Yet, what Robert seeks to "liberate" 
remains ambiguous — the body of the heroine is "liberated" only by the elimination 
of her reproductive capacity. Freedom from the animalistic condition of woman 
is defined by an escape into the imaginary (via mind and spirit); however, the 
only means of liberating the esoteric energies of the mind is through language, 
a symbolic language that is already laden with a history of phallogocentric 
coating (meaning). 

Robert's heroine rebels against this social positioning of woman within the 
realm of marriage — as a submission to the laws of private property. Instead of 
allowing herself to be remarried she finds "il corpo di un'uomo simpatico 



42 CARTE ITALIANE 



intelligente che oggi si chiama lui," a nameless man who also functions as a 
father to her son. Although she later names him (Gulio), she refuses to enunciate 
"family" names which would allude to the patrilinea! histoiy as a system of 
ownership and subordination of women. Robert represents her heroine as an 
independent woman with a "spirito scontento, ironico, scatta via" (4). In 
addition to the denial of the name which would incorporate her within a system 
of patrilineage Robert rejects the name of the father — the faith in the Word of 
God which inhibits a freedom of action and will; 

Dio?? Chi è Dio, Dov'è? D conforto suprannaturale non ha per me alcuna 
importanza ... la vuota immagine del Dio barbuto venerato dalla gente 
ignorante e la idea astratta di un Dio invisibile creatore del mondo. . . . (60) 

For Robert Christianity as the faith in God symbolizes another prison of the 
imagination; faith reinforces the weakness and ignorance of the masses, who are 
more comfortable holding on to their own static beliefs and positions rather than 
acting on their own imagination and wills. Hence Robert ' s adaptation of Futurist 
discourse reveals more than a simple mimicry of phallocentric discourse, since 
the Law itself is considercd a secondary (feminine?) delegated power dependent 
on a supreme principle o Good or morality. By rejecting the moral foundations 
of the Law, Robert reduces, as do the Futurists, the Law to a repression of desire 
and the will to power. Therefore, Robert opens a discourse on the seemingly 
closed circuit of morality, which merely tends toward the repetition of a state of 
equilibrium based on a need to believe in objects (specifically phallic) that are 
already solidly determined. Although Futurism itself is based on masculine 
paramaters, it views upholding the Law as an acceptance of silence, death as a 
condition of remaining subject to phallocratic discourse and its institutions. This 
perception of morality as death reduces the Good (on which bourgeois institutions 
are "hypocritically" based) to nothingness. Ironically, instead of pursuing a 
critique of phallocratic discourse, Robert adopts a more extreme version of that 
very discourse (unmasked aggression) as a means of militarizing the feminine. 
It is the desire to speak that becomes the act of passion (the act of violence 
or in Robert's case a violation of the feminine as it was constituted by a male 
tradition) which necessitates the destruction of the institutions which maintain 
bourgeois (feminine?) hegemony (via "la legge") and challenges the narratives 
which legitimize this hegemony. Gramsci similarly expressed an enthusiasm for 
Futurism 's vivacious will to "tear asunder" the hegemonic power which forces 
"submission to the laws through which it orchestrates social positioning": 

I Futuristi hanno svolto questo compito nel campo della cultura Borghese . . . 
hanno distrutto . . . senza preoccuparsi — se le nuove creazioni, prodotte dalla 



FIGARO + SIGARO = SFIGARO 43 



loro attività fossero nel complesso un'opera superiore . . . hanno avuto fiducia 
in se stessi, nella foga della energie giovani.'^ 

Although Robert was not concemed with drawing on Futurism as a model for a 
possible proletariat entrance imo the arts, both Robert and Gramsci agree that 
Futurism provides a space for marginai groups such as women and the proletariat 
not only because of its radicai opposition to bourgeois institutions, but also 
because of its ability to integrate (a predominately male) high culture with a low 
culture (a possible inclusion of the economie and sexual other). The "foga della 
energie giovani" or the "forma caotica" promises a certain implosion of the 
bourgeois s>'stem, by challenging the pre-ordained "decency" and "normalcy" of 
bourgeois traditions and institutions — a challenge of faith. Hovvever, Gramsci, 
distanced himself politically from the Avant-garde, which remained attached to 
bourgeois society precisely because it needed money. He did not praise Futurism 
for its social platform, but as an agent of delegitimization of the law s of the super- 
structure. However, it is this attachment not only to the economie system, but 
also to the superstructure itself (specifically its patriarchal aspects), that 
problematizes the process of deconstructing the dominant (economie, moral and 
ideological) system. As Walter Benjamin explains: "War and war only can set 
a goal for mass movements on the largest scale while respecting the traditional 
property."'^ While Futurism rejects the bourgeois system of values (including 
property ownership under the laws of capitalism), morals and "democratic" 
institutions which are preceived as robbing the people of their real existence and 
giving the masses a false sense of pride, it mimics the mechanical system of 
production, displacing macro-political power onto gendered power relations. 
Thus the Futurists encode their own war against the bourgeois modes of 
enculturation with ali of its repressive institutions as a rejection of the 
"feminization" of society. Violence and aggression not only become an aesthetic 
ideal, but a Constant process, a permanent revolution rather than an organized 
politicai movement. 

Although Marinetti disregards any feminist "equa! rights" movement as 
purely a submission to further inoctrinations of the pre-existing system of moral 
order, he regards feminism as a means to imploding those very institutions of law 
and order. For Marinetti, not only would women's infiltration into the 
parliament and law-making institutions cause the destruction of the nuclear 
family (primarily of mammismo), but it would prove to be an "animalizzazione 
totale della politica,"and ultimately lead to the death of "parlamentarismo." 
Therefore, while women would be participating in the illusion of govemment 
representation, "un governo composto di donne o sostenuto dalle donne ci 
trascinerebbe fatalmente, per vie di pacifismo e di viltà tolstoiana, ad un trionfo 



44 CARTE ITALIANE 



del clericalismo e dell'ipocrisia moralista."'^ Paradoxically Marinetti relies on 
the traditional myths of essentìalism, yet he recognizes their historical and socio- 
cultural specificity. His philosophical critique of the feminist agenda (which 
most likely he borrowed from Valentine de Saint-Point) reflects this paradox by 
displaying primarily a misogynist interpretation of the female sex; however, 
Marinetti had an advanced understanding of the ideological implications of 
equality of the sexes within a predominately patriarchial culture. As Teresa de 
Lauretisexplains,feminism'sfightforwomen'sequalitywithmenismisdirected 
since equality is "an ideological attempt to subject women even further, to 
prevent the expression of their own sense of existence, and to foreclose the road 
to woman's liberation."^° Equality becomes what Irigaray calls a masquerade, 
which, unlike the play of mimicry, contains no intentional irony — a polemical 
gesture aimed at the condemnation of the patriarchy and its power structures. It 
is an unconscious mimicry which masks a re-submission to the domination of the 
patriarchy. Thus, there are no equal rights under laws and institutions which 
protect private property, whether that property is defmed as capital or the 
possession of a husband or wife. Justice as well as the equal representation put 
forward by the parliamentary system and the ideology of the state apparatus 
become a farce not only in the platonic sense, but also in respect to the high ideals 
on which the hegemonic (patriarchial) system legitimizes its authority. Therefore, 
in order to achieve freedom from the hypocrisy of the bourgeois system — from 
the "prostituzione legale" and the "illusione di dominio" — the Futurists do not 
support the idea of historical necessity, but an epistemological rupture from the 
continuum of historical (and I would argue patriarchal) thought. 

The paradox in this Futurist unmaking of organized politics and politicai/ 
moral discourse is that woman is simultaneously perceived as a prisoner of that 
very discourse while she is also absent from that discourse — she is consistently 
being spoken for, yet she is inaudible or inexpressible. According to De Lauretis 
"woman is displayed as a spectacle [ in Robert "un ventre," "un utero sofiferente," 
"un materno fossato," "cadaveri vestiti di pellicce calde," etc] and yet unrepre- 
sented, a being whose existence specifically is simultaneously asserted and 
denied, negated and controlied [where] the body itself becomes an object of 
manipulation to 'la fredda esplorazione professionale'." Un ventre di donna 
reveals this paradoxical situation when the heroine claims: "non credevo che il 
mio podere violato da una mano tecnica [which belongs to the doctor she names 
Jack lo sventratore], dovesse tanto soffrire ... la più inaspetta sensazione erotica" 
(26). While she declares "scienza impotente che sei il peggior bacillo che infesti 
il mondo" (160), she is fascinated by the "tools" which are used to dismember 
her body, as well as the "tools" of Futurist poetics prescribed by Marinetti, 
because these "tools" symbolize a source of power — to which she is forced to 



FIGARO + SIGARO = SFIGARO 45 



submit. Thus, the body (feminine terrain) is the locus of pain and the voice is 
the locus of power (mascuhne). However, she is excluded from the language of 
medicine (or scientific discourse) by doctors who find her incapable not only of 
understanding the maladiesof her own body, but incapable of emotionally 
accepting the gravity of her situation. Thus, her body becomes a "spectacle" 
which is manipulated as an object, made knowable by scientific experimentation, 
yet "unrepresented" — she is denied entrance into a discourse on her own body. 
Scientific discourse as science itself becomes a weapon used against her, instead 
of a tool of recitation. Within medicai or scientific discourse the heroine becomes 
an unreliable narrator of her own bodily events. Here Robert reveals science, not 
only as a violation (if not a rape) of the patient who has no choice other than to 
suffer the consequences ("carne bruciata," in "silenzio caldo" / "silenzio 
freddo"), but as a silencing of the patient's expression of sentient content. By 
bypassing the voice of the patient, Jack lo sventratore also bypasses the bodily 
event, as a painful experience. Hence, he not only "rips" out her "naturai" power 
of reproduction, but denies her any entrance into a dialogue with a medicai 
practice performed on her body. Without an understanding of the procedures 
enacted on her body she is left only with her sensory facilities and with the 
experience of pain, completely helpless in relation to the "fredda esplorazione 
professionale": "sente il freddo della lama che affonda nella carme floscia . . . 
sente un getto di pus caldo sul ventre ghiacciato" (82). The heroine identifies 
only with the delicacy of the flesh which is subjected not only to the uncon- 
troUable infection ("getti di pus"), but the penetration of science — the intrusion 
of the biade, the inspection which makes the unknown knowable, and fmally the 
violation of that flesh by the hand of Jack lo sventratore who carves out her womb. 
The unmaking of the heroine's womb deconstructs the institution of medicine's 
masquerade of aid or healing, since the doctor is at once made the actual agent 
of the pain (violation) and the demonstration of the efifects of pain on the human 
body. In addition, the symbolic dismembering of the heroine reflects not only 
the decapitation of her sentient experiences, but also the violence of representation 
which dissects (makes knowable) and assigns identities the other (in this case de- 
humanizing the wom(b)an). 

The more the heroine demands access to the knowledge of her own physical 
condition the more she is ignored and driven to anger; the heroine retaliates by 
calling the doctors "assassini, i macellai sveglia ... la mia carne è mia!" (81, 
emphasis mine). However, these outbursts are interpreted by the doctors as 
"vigliaccheria." Therefore, at the same time that she is reduced to the sentient 
language of the body, it is the perceptible and emotional qualities which are left 
to the unseen and unheard — invisible geography — while the body itself is 
objectified, manipulatedanddismembered(silenced). Robert not only emphasizes 



46 



CARTE ITALIANE 



the lack of control of the heroine/patient in regard to the doctors or "assassini," 
but the body itself becomes an uncontrollable force tumed against her: "ma 
trovato diffusissimo il male necessità di asportare tutto, profonde sutore 
dell'utero, che cominciava ad intaccarsi" (69, emphasis mine). 

Ironically this simultaneous negation of the female body and decapitation 
of woman (an exclusion of women from a dialogue with phallocentric discourse) 
is precisely one of the aims of Futurism. In his article "Contro il matrimonio" 
Marinetti calls for a radicai separation of the sexes designed to protect men from 
"la piccola femmina come piccoli cicisbei o piccoli stupidi."^' Although 
Marinetti claims "bisogna metterle [le donne] a posto," he replaces the dangerous 
seductive women with woman as a waste product: "nel letto di un tubercolotico, 
sotto la lingua di un vecchio, sotto i pugni di un nevrastenico, fra le pagine di 
un dizionario come una foglia secca, in una tomba, in una cassaforte o in una 
cloaca, ma bisogna metterle a posto."" Although Marinetti postulates that the 
root of the problem emerges from a tradition of mis-education of women, he does 
not propose are-education of women (to equal that of man), but calls for the 
distancing of the real women who carry the baggage of social conditioning. 
Hélène Cixous argues that this dynamic positioning of the absent woman/other 
supports itself on the desire to "keep women in their place": 

. . . to keep women in their place of mystery . . . to keep her at a distance. [Where] 
she is always not quite there ... but no one knows where she is. She is silence. 
Silence is the mark of hysteria; she is aphonic . . . [she is] decapitateci." 

Cixous sees woman decapitated by the same patriarchial system which bases its 
(Oedipal) "Law" on a threat of castration: while men submit to the "Law" with 
a fear of castration, women 's tongues are cut off and "what talks isn't heard 
because it's the body that talks, and man doesn't hear the body."^" Thus, he 
possesses the impotent power of giving fixed (dead) identities, while she ("la 
donna fa credere che ciò sia vero perché quasi sempre le fa comodo adoperare la 
propria debolezza apparente come un'arma fra le sue più valide") remains 
inaudible, yet always already representedby the other — a dum(b)ping ground for 
a "stock of images" to which man sought to define himself in opposition. 

Similarly Robert agrees to the silencing (if not dismembering) of the female 
body — as a disempowerment of the seductive body, a body which imprisons the 
imaginative power (masculinity) of women. However, this silencing is directed 
to acculturation of the real woman in the role of the "feminine," and specifically 
the socio-historical positioning of women within traditional institutions as 
reflected through mass culture. Robert (as the Futurists) primarily reacts to the 
"feminization" of mass culture as an agent of cultural indoctrination, rejecting 



FIGARO + SIGARO = SFIGARO 47 



ihefin-de-siècle model of woman as well as the contemporary women's writing 
(letteratura rosa): "Sarebbe dunque l'ora di smettere il tono civettuolo e 
inconcludente che é caratteristico della letteratura muliebred'oggi, edi cominciare 
con energia l'enunciazione . . . della anime nostre" (ix), and the body that "porta 
via i germi della maldicenza, sottile abilità donnesca, paziente ricamo femminile 
in cui ogni traforo é un tranello" (158). By de-activating this "tranello donnesco" 
Robert attempts to impregnate women with the primary power of language. The 
access to symbolic language, however does not female imaginary, but adopts 
masculine parameters. According to Julia Kristeva the aping of the phallic 
model or "saming" leaves woman to think of herself as impregnated by the Word, 
where "she should live and think of herself as a male homosexual."" Robert 
reveals the ambiguous placement of woman within this homosexual economy 
which causes her heroine to confuse the desire to be a man — "io penso che sarei 
stata un poco pittore e un poco poeta, se fossi nata uomo; l'amore non mi basta; 
mi sento veramente in questo momento, poco donna" (4) — with the desire for 
man as pure spirit — "un'altra realtà, un'altra gioia, un capriccio senza forma, 
un altro uomo, senza corpo e senza voce, un tipo astratto" (4), yet she dismisses 
this desire as "una pazzia." It is the denunciation of the feminine body and ali 
of its associated "images" (specifically the power of fecundity s>'mbolized by the 
womb) which displaces the Futurist women's sexual identity, where they become 
asexual (bodies without organs), guardians of the patriarchal (symbolic) order, 
even in its most misogynistic and sadistic forms. This "displacement" of women 
essentially amounts to their removal of the threatening woman — the woman who 
possesses the uncontrollable power of both life (as "il materno fossato") and 
death (as the femme fatale). From Kristeva's point of view, Robert's self- 
alignment with the symbolic Word of man positions her as one of the Electras, 
militants in the cause of the father, frigid with exaltation — they are dramatic 
figures emerging at the point where the social consen-sus corners any woman 
who wantsto escape her condition: 'nuns', 'revolutionaries',even 'feminists'?"^* 
However, in the case ofFuturism these "militant daughters," become accomplices 
in the sadistic war against the mother/other, which ironically forces them to deny 
their own physical existence. Within this "homosexual" economy the daughter 
becomes an accomplice to the patriarchy expressing her sadistic desires to negate 
the material and biological nature of the mother. Although Deleuze does not 
account for the circumstances in which women develop a desire to become part 
of the sadistic order, he postulates that the only point of entrance for women 
within the sadistic system is in her "elevation to an incestuous accomplice of the 
father."^' 

In order for Robert to become an "accomplice" to Futurism she associates 
with the masculine obsession of gendered violence, which becomes more of a 



48 CARTE ITALIANE 



threat to herself as woman than to her male counterparts, since not only do men 
possess control over the productions of mass culture, but she must internalize this 
gendered violence as a self-mutilation (masochistically). Robert responds to this 
sexual anxiety — fear of the uncontroUable female potency, and of the castrating 
female — ^by relinquishing ali the "svmbolic" povvers associated vvith women, and 
those physical apparatuses which pose a threat to male potency. 

Robert does not search for a place for the female body, nor does she explore 
the female body. For her the body is a "cadaver in warm fur," it is an open wound 
which if it cannot be erased it must at least be endured; she re-places the body 
from the site/function of the breeding ground to that of the infection, and as a 
consequence, lays it in the hospital bed — immobile and unrepresentable. Her 
adaptation of the fear of the uncontroUable generative mother repels her from the 
body and leads her toward a respect for the body of the other, her fellow man, her 
brother. This sadistic process of negating the mother is mirrored in Robert's 
unmaking of her heroine's body as a necessary sacrifice of her own feminine and 
motherly qualities. The surgical removal of the womb leaves the female body as 
a vacuum, a void containing only negativity and death. In a letter to the heroine, 
Marinetti draws an analogy between her dismembered "ventre" (as the site of 
origination of man) and that of the "ventre" of the trenches which contain the 
dismemberment of the male body (the serialization of society via war, the final 
destination of man): 

D vostro ventre è profondamente simbolico. Infatti il vostro ventre somiglia a 
quello della terra, che ha oggi un'immensa ferita chirurgica di trincee ... la 
vostra ferita è identica alla nostra, il terreno che ci divide dal nemico. (113) 

Marinetti encodes this sacrifice of fecundity as a sympathetic patriotic act — it is 
the destruction or sterilization of not only the site of reproduction, but the produci 
of the reproductive process itself, the implosion of "il golfo carnale." Although 
the heroine generates new symbolic analogies as a "celestial belly," it is a belly 
that, instead of generating, consumes. This again replaces the body as vacuum, 
privileging the creativity of the imagination over that of the body — mind/spirit 
over body. Georges Bataille explains that "the body [within a sadistic economy] 
becomes a thing, vile, slavish, servile, just like a stone or a piece of wood, only 
the spirit with its intimate and subjective truth cannot be reduced to a thing. "^* 
Thus, it is the sacred housed in a profane body, which Robert attempts to liberate. 
Although Robert's ultimate goal is equality of the sexes, at least in respect to the 
education and modeling of women after th male imaginary. Un ventre di donna 
articulates woman as a suffering wound (womb), also revealing the irony and 
schizophrenia of a woman who cannot escape the profane bar of sexual 
difference. Within the imaginary the heroine's stomach can be stretched out on 



FIGARO + SIGARO = SFIGARO 49 



the battle field (placed in the celestial mud); however, her desire for sameness 
appears as an empty hope, returning her once again to the space of a lack, a 
wound: "Che schifo essere un utero sofferente, mentre tutti gli uomini si battono 
e pensano che non ho nemmeno il coraggio di supportare le iniezioni" (26). The 
heroine's desire for inclusion in phallocentric discourse and garrulous agencies 
is counteracted by her revelation of the birthing process itself — she reflects "ecco 
la mia creatura, nata da me, voluta da me, portata da me, nel mio ventre" (4). 
Robert never resolves this dichotomy of the pleasure of giving birth 
(generative power) and that of sacrificing the body in order to prove herself not 
only equal to man's ability to withstand pain (as in the case of the men in the 
trenches), but also eliminating the threat of female generative power (womb 
envy, which is also displaced onto seduction). Although Robert models the 
womb after the Futurist conception of the city — that must be destroyed in order 
to be rebuilt for each generation — , this loss, lack or wound is not welcomed 
without remorse. By stripping away the pre-established feminine powers the 
heroine places herself in an ambiguous space — a body without organs which 
contains the imagination and ideology of the Futurist man, but is not quite one. 
Thus, this space becomes a non-space, a void ("il vuoto assoluto"), where the 
heroine can be neither completely male, nor female, her place is one of silence 
and pain from which a self-hatred emerges, reflected in her intricate detailing 
of not only the maladies of her body, but also the surgical process itself Not only 
does the heroine express a resentment for being "un utero sofferente," that cannot 
fight amongst men, but also a resentment for no longer being a woman: 

Non mi lasci dunque nemmeno ridere, odioso nemico rifugiato là dove 
dovrebbe solo palpitare un largo fiore fecondo? Tu mordi i miei figli quelli che 
aspetterei formarsi e vivere sotto il getto raggiante della creazione. Tu 
distruggi il mio fervore materno, e mi dilanii. (201) 

Robert demonstrates a slippage in the masquerade (the attempi to ape the phallic 
model) as the revenge of the body that not only cannot be masculinized, but also 
no longer contains the (albeit "secondary") power of reproduction. Although Un 
ventre di donna presents an alternative discourse for women's writing — an 
exploration of the imaginary via Futurism — the heroine retums to the discourse 
of the body, yet this time a wounded body (and a wounded spirit), a body (and 
an imaginary sensitivity) in pain — "mi rende la fede nella mia carne, salda fede 
che la scienza stessa tentava di togliermi" (84). 

Ironically, Robert uses physical pain as a vehicle of transcendence, a 
substitute for the death of the mother (female anatomy) only to be rebom in 
phallocentric discourse. However, as Elaine Scarry explains, pain, as death, is 
the most intensive negation, the purest expression of anti-human annihilation 



50 CARTE ITALIANE 



where "ali the contents of consciousness are destroyed": 

Pain disintegrates perception — contents of consciousness are obliterated during 
those moments, the name of one's child, the memory of a friend's face are ali 
absent ... the created world of thought and feeling, ali the psychological and 
mental content that constructs both one's self and one's world, and that which 
gives rise to, and is in turn made possible by language exist.^' 

Instead of transcending the body, Robert emphasizes woman's carnai engufinent. 
Even if she believes this eradication of the womb to be a purification, she 
concludes Un ventre di donna focusing on the "fibre rosse della mia carne più 
pura," directing her "spirito aggressivo" towards her own desire for "una povera 
vendetta" she holds against the fecundity of other women's "ventre isterico" — 
"Voglio denudare la bruna nervosità di questa fragile donnina dagli occhi grandi 
troppo spesso spalancati sul mare" (209). Hence, Robert' s initial militant desire 
to negate ("mammismo" and the seductive women) transposes into resentment 
of women (as a male homosexual, a womb envy ) once she is re-placed in the text 
as a body without organs. Although the dismembering of her anatomy allows her 
to distance herself from the "second sex," and enter into a discourse with 
Marinetti, she remains (placed) in the hospital bed — accentuating the painful 
processof women entering intoa maledominated movement/discourse. According 
to Scarry, as the body breaks down, "the voice becomes the final source of self 
extension ... so long as one is speaking the self extends out beyond the 
boundaries of the body, and occupies a space much larger than the body."'° This 
becomes Robert's only means of survival. Ironically, this self-extension via the 
imaginary (that which is diametrically opposed to the entrapment in the sensory 
body) is prescribed by Marinetti. Yet this projection of the self outside of the body 
once again returns to a phallocentric splitting of the mind and the body — a 
semantic distance between the maker (the mind) and the receiver (the body or the 
other) which secures for the self a position of mastery. In addition, the very belief 
that the voice or the imaginary extends the self assumes a mind-body split of 
which Robert proves herself to be incapable, since even her Futurist writing 
eventually returns to the body. 

Contrary to Marinetti's analogical interpretation the womb as a wound of 
a nation, the heroine embarks on her own exploration of Futurist writing,based 
on her sentient experiences of pain and sense of loss. However, she goes no 
further than to demonstrate the violence of representing the feminine within 
Futurist phallocentric discourse — and the impossibility of creating a feminine 
subjectivity within that discourse. Through a process of mimicry, Robert 
expresses the desire for equality, which essentially means becoming a man, yet 
she also reveals the inescapability of the female body, by returing to even an 



FIGARO + SIGARO = SFIGARO 51 



empty womb — de-naturalizing only herself in the process. 
Khss Ravetto 

Comparative Literature Program 
University of California, Los Angeles 



Notes 

'F. T. Marinetti, "Fondazione e manifesto del futurismo" and "Contro l'amore e il 
parlamentarismo", 1910, Teoria e invenzione futurista, ed. Luciano de Maria (Milan: 
Mondadori, 1968) 10-11,293. 

^Enif Robert, "Come si seducono le donne" L'Italia futurista 2.36 (31 December 
1917), rpt. in Le futuriste, by Claudia Salaris (Milan: Edizioni delle Donne, 1982) 111. 

^Enif Robert, "Una parola serensi", L'Italia futurista 2.30, (7 October 1917), rpt. in 
Le futuriste 108. 

''Susan Rubin Suleiman, Subversive Intent: Gender Politics and the Avant-garde 
(Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1990) 26. 

'Claudia Salaris, futuriste: donne e letteratura d'avanguardia in Italia (Milan: 
Edizioni delle Donne, 1982) 61. 

^Salaris 61. 

^Marinetti, "Distruzione della sintassi - Immaginazione senza fili - Parole in libertà" 
(11 May 1913), Teoria e invenzione futurista 66. 

^Marinetti, "Distruzione della sintassi" 68. 

^uce Irigaray, This Sex Uliich is Not One, trans. Catherine Porter (Ithaca: Cornell 
UP, 1985) 98. 

'^Adriana Cavarero, "Towards a Theory of Sexual Difference," Diotima, rpt. in 
Sexual Difference, ed. and trans. Teresa De Lauretis (Bloomington: Milan Women's 
Bookstore Collective-Indiana UP, ) 47. 

"Marinetti, "Fondazione e Manifesto del Futurismo" 7. 

'^Marinetti, "Contro il matrimonio," Democrazia futurista. Teoria e invenzione 
futurista 369. 

''Enif Robert and F. T. Marinetti, Un ventre di donna (Milan: Facchi, 1919) 157- 
58. Ali further references to this text will be noted parenthetically within the body of the 
paper. 

'''Gilles Deleuze, A/(fl5oc/i/5»i.- Coldness and Cruelty, trans. Jean McNeil (Cambridge: 
Zone-MIT P, 1989) 59. Originai French published in 1967. 

'^Valentine De Saint-Point, "Manifesto della donna futurista," rpt. in Le 
futuriste 31. 

'^Fernando Pessoa, Always Astonished, trans. Edwin Honig (San Francisco: City 
Lights Books, 1988) 78. Ferdinando Pessoa explains that Futurism seeks in relativity, 
"that is, in what it calls physical transcendentalism, the creative reason of impressions, 
but it seeks only their physical outer, superficial and empirical reason, and not their 



52 CARTE ITALIANE 



metaphysical, intimate, deep abysic one." 

'^Antonio Gramsci, "Marinetti rivoluzionario?", L'ordine nuovo (5 Jan. 1921), rpt. 
in. Scritti politici, ed. Paolo Spriano, Ist ed. (Rome: Riuniti, 1967) 396. Note that the 
article was not signed. 

'^Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," 
Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt, trans. Harry John (New York: Schochen Books, 1968) 
241. 

'Marinetti, "Contro l'amore e il parlamentarismo" 296. 

^"Teresa De Lauretis, "The Essence of the Triangle or, Taking the Risk of 
Essentialism Seriously: Feminist Theory in Italy, the U.S. and Britain," Differences 1 .3 
(Summer 1989): 17. 

^'Marinetti, "Contro il matrimonio," Democrazia futurista. Teoria e invenzione 
futurista 370. 

^^Marinetti, "Contro il matrimonio" 370-71, emphasis mine. 

"Hélène Cixous, "Castration or Decapitation?", Out There, eds. Russell Ferguson, 
Martha Gever, Trinh T. MinhHa and Cornei West, New Museum of Contemporary Art 
Ser. (Cambridge: MIT P, 1990) 352-53. 

^"Cixous 353. 

^'Julia Kristeva, "About Chinese Women," The Kristeva Reader, ed. ToriI Moi 
(New York: Columbia UP, 1986) 147. 

^^Kristeva 152. 

2 'Kristeva 152. 

^^Georges Bataille, Erotism: Death and Sensuality, trans. Mary Daiwood (San 
Francisco: City Lights Books, 1986) 158. 

^^laine Scarry [William T. Fitts], The Body in Pain (New York: Oxford UP, 
1985) 18. 

'"Scarry 33. 



Futurism, Photography and the Representation of 

Violence 



F. T. Marinetti's idea for a Futurist aesthetic was an ambitious one that 
wanted to include a diverse group of artistic media, ranging from the most 
traditional — painting, sculpture and literature — to those that had just begun to 
be considered vi tal components of an avant-garde movement, namely photography 
and cinema. The primary figure among the Futurists, other than Marinetti 
himself, who advocated the inclusion of these media within the Futurist 
programme was Anton Giulio Bragaglia. Formally known 2^s fotodinamismo, 
Bragaglia's project was first mentioned in the pages of the Futurist publication 
"Lacerba" in 1913 not in the form of a manifesto, but as an advertisement: 
"Fotodinamismo Futurista. 16 Tavole fuori testo. Prezzo di Propoganda 10 
soldi." In order to account for fotodinamismo'' s marginai position in the 
movement, one could begin with a letter dated 4 September 1913 in which 
Umberto Boccioni writes to G. Sprovieri, 

Mi raccomando, te lo scrivo a nome degli amici futuristi, escludi qualsiasi 
contatto con la fotodinamica del Bragaglia — È una presuntuosa inutilità che 
danneggia le nostre aspirazioni di liberazione dalla riproduzione schematica 
o successiva della statica e del moto.' 

In the sanie letter Bragaglia is described as a "fotografo positivista del dinamismo." 
It is evident from this description that B ragaglia ' s particular brand of photography , 
one that attempted to represent movement, was being stigmatized as a form of 
mimetic reproducton, something which Boccioni and the other Futurist painters 
who made movement a thematic focal point in their paintings wanted to 
transcend. Ironically, Bragaglia's standing among the Futurists suffered from 
that which the movement sought to overturn, namely the reactionary attitude that 
held sway over Italian art at the start of the century. In his encounter with the 
new technology of the day, Boccioni was both cautious and disdainful, choosing 
instead to conduct his assault on traditional attitudes and values in art within the 
confines of more traditional media. Nearly two decades after Boccioni 's letter 
in an essay entitled La fotografia futurista, Marinetti states that the experiments 

53 



54 CARTE ITALIANE 



being done by the Futurists in photography bave "lo scopo di far sempre più 
sconfinare la scienza fotografica nell'arte pura e favorirne automaticamente lo 
sviluppo nel campo della fisica, della chimica e della guerra."^ Photography 
would be a tool operating in Futurism's ultimate aesthetic glorification, war. 

Why did Marinetti delay in writing an essay in support of Bragaglia's 
project? A possible explanation would be the camera's lack of appeal as a literary 
motif Marinetti's machines of choice were the automobile and the airplane 
perhaps because they corresponded to one of the conditions needed for the 
creation of art, the "orgiastic impulse" which Nietzsche described in The Will to 
Power} According to Marinetti, artistic creation should verge on the irrational: 

Usciamo dalla saggezza come da un orribile guscio, e gettiamoci, come 
frutti pimentati d'orgoglio, entro la bocca immensa e tòrta del vento! . . . 
Diamoci in pasto all'Ignoto, non già per disperazione, ma soltanto per colmare 
i profondi pozzi dell'Assurdo!'' 

Furthermore, they provided Marinetti with the popular imagery that would be 
necessary to propagate the cult of speed and virility which he would use to shift 
art's forum from the ivory tower of the Symbolist poet to mass culture. Schnapp 
has observed that for Marinetti the shortcomings of Symbolism are derived from 
its "inability to translate a radically modem poetics into a coherent public 
practice."' Marinetti could have facilitated the realization of his vision of mass 
art by utilizi ng a medium that makes extensive use of reproductions such as 
photography, one of the most avant-garde of the arts in which, as Walter 
Benjamin explains in Illuminations, the traditions of authorship and originality 
begin to be overturned. 

Two years before Boccioni composed his letter to Sprovieri, Bragaglia 
expressed his aversion to any photographic activity that had the aim of creating 
realistic or painterly images in the preface to his book written in 1911 entitled 
Fotodinamismo futurista, where he and his brother Arturo state that they want 
to distance themselves from being labeled photographers: "ci piace inoltre di far 
osservare, che io e mio fratello Arturo, non siamo fotografi, e ci troviamo ben 
lontanti dalla professione di fotografi."* For Bragaglia and his brother the word 
"fotografo" is associated with Xht passe photographic convention of producing 
a mechanical copy of nature without reflecting critically on the creative moment 
involved in the image-making process. Bragaglia states in his book that his 
intention is aimed at purifying and liberating the photograph from its static 
realism. An example of the realism he wanted to avoid was the work done several 
decades earlier by the French photographer Marey who made studies of human 
and animalmovement. In an effort to furthcr distance his work from that of his 
predecessors, Bragaglia makes reference to the tenth canto of Dante's Commedia. 



FUTURISM, PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE REPRESENTATION OF VIOLENCE 55 



Bragaglia is drawn to this particular canto because of the bas-reliefs that Dante- 
pilgrim describes as he begins his ascent. The bas-reliefs represent for 
Bragaglia, "un'arte divina che sapesse dare non uno ma molteplici tempi di 
un'azione, sempre nello stesso quadro, proprio col metodo del nostro 
movimentismo."^ "Il nostro movimentismo" to which Bragaglia refers was the 
collective aspiration of the Futurists — writers, painters and photographers 
alike — to represent the simultaneity and synthesis of movement, the interpene- 
tration of planes, and fmally the disintegration of the object through a given 
medium, be it textual or plastic. 

Bragaglia' s fotodinamismo was the result of a precise equivalence between 
light. movement, color and film that, once obtained, would produce an image 
which represented the flux and rhythm of lines. The type of seeing that interested 
Bragaglia involved a "slow seeing by means of the fixation of movements spread 
over a period of time: prolonged time exposures."^ The space of the photograph 
is fiUed by movement that has been fragmented so that we perceive not one 
moment of time, but many of them which have been multiplied creating a sense 
of dynamism; the result is thereby the illusion of perpetuai movement. In this 
way, Bragaglia breaks the static sequences of movement found in earlier 
photographers like Marey. His primary preoccupation was to create a tran- 
scendental photograph of movement. For Bragaglia this meant 

la essenza interiore delle cose: il puro movimento, e preferiamo tutto in moto, 
perché, nel moto le cose dematerializzandosi, si idealizzano, pur possedendo 
ancora, profondamente, un forte scheletro di verità.^ 

Thus Bragaglia afTirms the Futurist faith in movement, however he does so by 
making recourse to Platonic and Bergsonian philosophies. In the passage 
quoted, Bragaglia indicates his predilection for pursuing that which is tran- 
scendent in his subject. Movement, as Bragaglia understood it, is the means 
through which the transcendent reality of the phenomena around us could be 
revealed. By creating the illusion of movement in his photographs, Bragaglia 
hoped to avoid the stigma of the photographic image as imitation. His images 
display a dynamism that recalls Bergson' s principle of élan vi tal which 
emphasizes the continuai flux and mobility of matter. His notion of movement 
thus differs from the Futurist party-line whose main interest was in the 
contingent transient reality that Bragaglia had wanted to sublimate. Furthermore, 
Bragaglia writes of the idealization of the subject, which is the second phase of 
Auguste Comte's theory of art. In A General View of Positivism, Comte 
distinguishes three phases found in every work of art: imitation, idealization and 
expression.'° He observes that the second phase is a feature that can be traced 



56 



CARTE ITALIANE 



back to the masterpieces of antiquity. The idealized beauty of the Victory of 
Samothrace which Marinctti rejected, is sought by Bragaglia via the machine. 
Bragaglia's art, like that of his fellow Futurists, raises the question about the 
existence of an aesthetic creation: to what extent can a work of art seek to be alive 
and stili be considered art? This ambition to create an art that seems to have 
overcome the dichotomy between being and appearance is made clear when 
Bragaglia makes reference to Dante's description of an art tht speaks: 

Colui che mai non vide cosa nova 
produsse esto visibile parlare, 
novello a noi perché qui non si trova." 

By using a technique that places emphasis on the reproduction of movement, not 
to mention the transformative powers of photography, Bragaglia, through 
relentless experimentation, pushes his response to its limits. According to 
Walter Benjamin, "No work of art may appear completely and unchecked alive 
without becoming mere appearance, thus ceasing to be a work of art."'^ The 
divine art of which Dante speaks has succeeded in creating a fusion of being and 
appearance that can stili maintain the claim of being a work of art. Bragaglia's 
photographs come dose to evoking the impression of looking at such art. One 
can imagine hearing the sound caused by the movement of hands typing, of a 
blow to the face, of a carpenter who is sawing. His work, however, is nothing 
more than illusion; it is an attempt to represent the Idea. Failure to obtain an art 
such as the one described by Dante through the photographic process is implicit. 
In order to fmd something that begins to approach the realization of "visibile 
parlare," we need to go outside of the plastic arts and into film. 

Bragaglia's images vvere intended to reshape the public ' s perception of what 
constituted not only a photograph but also what could be considered art. The 
modernization of the viewer's sensibility was to be obtained through a direct 
appeal to his or her emotions rather than through spiritual or mystical means. 
Bragaglia's Lo schiaffo (1913) fulfills his desire to stimulate the senses of the 
Viewer and to awaken the viewer's realization of possible alternative ways to 
conceive of reality. The alternative that Bragaglia ofifers to the public is one 
based on a reality permeated with optimism, faith in the ability of technology to 
revolutionize the way in which we perceive daily existence. The emphasis on 
content was no longer centrai to the Futurist movement. What mattered was the 
immediacy with which the message could be grasped. 

Photography communicates its message through form, that is through lines 
and the use of space and light. The organization as well as the interaction of these 
elements creates the composition. Bragaglia's photographs demonstrate the 
multiplication of time and at the same time its immobilization. He opens up the 



FUTURISM, PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE REPRESENTATION OF VIOLENCE 57 




Figure 1: Anton Giulio Bragaglia, Lo schiaffo (1913). 



Figure 2: Anton Giulio 
Bragaglia, Dattilografa 
(1911). 




58 CARTE ITALIANE 



element of time in his photographs making it less rigid. His technique creates 
a sense of the passage of time due to the repetition and the fiision of lines while 
it simultaneously creates an uncanny sense of time as frozen, stili, blocked. 
Bragaglia's photographs reveal the paradoxical nature of movement which 
contradicts a basic tenet of Futurism. The nearly aporetic revelation of the 
paradox of movement is not recent; it can be traced back to the Greek philosopher 
Zeno of Elea and his four arguments against movement. The paradoxical nature 
of movement exemplified in Bragaglia's photographs explains why the Futurists 
resisted photography so ardently. 

A textual source other than that with which Bragaglia has provided us which 
can establish the aesthetic climate in which his photographs ftinctioned, is 
Marinetti's 1913 Distruzione della sintassi — Immaginazione senza fi li — Parole 
in libertà. An initial reading of the section entitled "La sensibilità futurista" 
demonstrates one point in particular which Bragalia has realized through his 
fotodinamismo: "L'uomo moltiplicato dalla macchina. Nuovo senso meccanico, 
fiisionedeir istinto col rendimento del motore e colle forze ammaestrate."" 
Instinct has the implied meaning of that which is spontaneous and uncontrollable 
such as violence for example. Here Marinetti, without making any reference to 
the photography of Bragaglia, concisely describes a photodynamic image as well 
as providing some insight on the sensibility of a Futurist photographcr who 
embodies the marriage of art and science. Since photography and technolog>' run 
parallel with one another the images are produced from the ftision of the 
photographcr' s artistic sensibility and the science which has given the 
photographcr the means with which he can articulate his particular vision. Other 
aflfinities between Bragaglia's images and Marinetti's Distruzione della sin- 
tassi — Immaginazione senza fili — Parole in libertà are clear in such passages as 
follows: "noi potremo . . . liquefare lo stile"; "I ventagli chiusi o aperti di 
movimenti"; "I movimenti a due, tre, quattro, cinque tempi."'" Incorporating 
such descriptions into an artwork had the specific aim of representing a modem 
reality whose experiences and objects reflected a plastic sensibility. 

Bragaglia's effort to rethink photography's use of light and line was not 
confmed to technique alone. What was the role which could be assigned to 
photography within the Futurist movement? Bragaglia gives an indication of 
this role when he writes, "Ed è indubbio che da tale moltiplicazione di entità noi 
veniamo ad ottenere una moltiplicazione di valori, atta ad arricchire ogni fatto 
di una più imponente personalità."" Here he introduces the idea of creating 
images that begin to change the values of the individuai who views the 
photograph. Although Bragaglia does not theorize the use of photography as a 
means of politicai propaganda, his images are intended to convince the viewer 
that we are perpetuai movement. The viewer is drawn into the Futurist sensibility 



FUTURISM, PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE REPRESENTATION OF VIOLENCE 59 



while the perception that the person has of his or her existence undergoes a 
reexamination. If the images were diffiised in such a manner that the pubhc was 
constantly exposed to them, it is possible to conclude that the images would alter 
the consciousness of the masses. A photograph for Bragaglia had value only 
insofar as the luminosity and energy of its lines could overflow its borders and 
engulf a responsive public which would take the spirit of the image out into the 
streets. It was hoped that the crowds would leave his exhibition having had their 
understanding of reality in some way altered: "Il quadro dunque potrà essere 
invaso e pervaso dalla essenza del soggetto, potrà essere ossessionato dal 
soggetto così da energicamente invadere ed ossessionare il pubblico con i propri 
valori."'^ From a Marxist point of view, Bragaglia's efforts could be perceived 
as an attempt to induce change on the level of the superstructure. Neither his 
photographs nor his texts with which I am familiar express his specific politicai 
affiliations; he was however a Futurist, which means that like Marinetti he too 
shared in the idea of art as revolution. There are not, however, any photographs 
taken by Bragaglia that belong to work done among the public on the streets. Two 
imagesofhis whichapproach the working classare///à/eg/7ame che sega (1911) 
and Dattilografa (1911). Both of these images involve only on a superficial level 
the existence of the worker. The photographs are more concerned with the way 
in which movement is being handled. Some difificulty also lies in finding any 
evidence in Bragaglia ' s photographs which would suggest that he was attempting 
to promote change in the economie structures that were present in Italy, a country 
which was late in experiencing the forces of an industriai revolution when 
compared to other nations such as France or Britain. 

Bragaglia's goal of idealizing the subject's form by dematerializing it 
through a combination of light and movement, his preoccupation with liberating 
the subject's interior essence reveal that his "rivoluzione" and "moltiplicazione 
dei valori" was actually addrssed to the individuai aesthete rather than to the 
masses; Bragaglia's true audience was an élite of writers and artists, a fact that 
contradicts Futurism's more populist aspects and expectations. The notion of 
anarchism in Italy with its concems for politicai and social reform at the time of 
fotodinamismo would suggest a need for a more documentary oriented style of 
photography v/hich fotodinamismo is clearly lacking. The distance between 
Bragaglia's photographs and the politicai realities of the times is evident in the 
techniques that he used such as multiple exposures and a carefully formulated 
lighting arrangement. Bragaglia's photodynamic images were carried out in a 
studio resulting in a composition that is meant to be contemplated for the beauty 
of its rhythms. 

Bragaglia draws his inspiration for Lo schiaffo from the third point of 
Marinetti 's 1909 Fondazione e manifesto del futurismo: "Noi vogliamo esaltare 



60 CARTE ITALIANE 



il movimento aggressivo, l'insonnia febbrile, il passo di corsa, il salto mortale, 
lo schiaffo ed il pugno."'^ In the photograph a man seated in a chair is looking 
up nonchalantly at another man who is about to strike him. The theme itself is 
interesting to the extent that it promotes violence as a form of art. Because the 
violence is being expressed via the language of aesthetics, however, the moral 
significance of the act is diminished. The photographic image, by nature 
removed from reality, can be a vehicle for "naturalizing" and promoting the 
acceptance of less acceptableforms ofbehavior, thereforeundermining traditional 
codes of conduct. Commenting on the relationship between image and reality, 
Susan Sontag observes, "The notions of image and reality are complimentary. 
When the notion of reality changes, so does that of the image, and vice versa. "'^ 
There is no attempt made by the individuai who was knocked to the floor to 
defend against the blow from the other. He seems to sit passively in his chair 
waiting for the moment to come when the hand will make contact with his face. 
The description sounds absurd because the image suggests to us that there is some 
positive value in being struck to the ground, that participating in such an act 
equals aesthetic pleasure. Bragaglia's photodynamic image is inherently 
contradictory because the violence that it seeks to represent is sublimated 
through the flux of movement. Instead of maintaining a clear distiction between 
subject and object as would occur in a static image, dynamism causes them to 
become fused. Rather than undermine the continuity of the composition, the 
fragmenting and the subsequent synthesis of subject and object endows the 
photograph with a center the presence of which creates an image that is organic. 
The photograph's high degree of self-referentiality places it m the realm of 
aesthetics. It lacks a clear begining and ending due to the fragmentation and 
interpenetration which prohibit any definitive completion of the action. As a 
result the Viewer' sgaze is allowed to circuiate freely within the space appropriated 
by the two men in the photograph. This temporal ambiguity is akin to that of a 
gerund insofar as it refers to an ongoing action in the present. Bragaglia's 
interest in going beyond mere appearences in the hope of revealing "l'essenza 
interiore delle cose" indicates his concem with the Idea which he tried to 
represent not by showing us the whole, but by showing us fragments. His pursuit 
of the Idea results in images that are equivocai and paradoxical, hence beautiful. 
The photodynamic image must be something "attiva che impone al pubblico la 
propria essenza liberissima, la quale per questo non sarà afferabile con la 
insipida facilità di tutte le cose troppo fedeli alla realtà solita."'^ Consequently, 
techniques essential to Futurist aesthetics such as dynamism, interpenetration 
and fragmentation disembody violence. In the founding manifesto of 1909, 
violence possesses a directness and an immediacy not found in Lo schiaffo; this 
is because violence looses its primacy in the photograph which subordinates it 



FUTURISM, PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE REPRESENTATION OF VIOLENCE 61 



to the beauty that comes from the transformative powers f movement. Moreover, 
in opposition to media of mass communication such as newspapers and 
manifestos whose content was intended for quick consumption and disposai, 
gallery exhibitions and art catalogs confered upon Futurist art the status of 
elitism and permanency. 

When it was first introduced by Marinelli, Futurism was grounded on an 
aesthetics of movement that emphasized aggressivity and virility . Photography 
adhered thematically to representing violence but not without reinterpreting it 
radically. My sense is that Futurism was initially interested in movement from 
a perspective that was univocal and superficial. Movement and the violence 
produced were ends in themselves. With Bragaglia's photography an aspect of 
Futurism emerged that intended to go beyond appearence hoping to arrive at 
what Benjamin has refered to as being. Thus, violence lost its corporeality when 
it was used by Bragagha in his attempi at making "una fotografia trascendentale 
del movimento."^" 

Tod Sabellì 

Department ofitalian 

University of California, Los Angeles 



Notes 

'Umberto Boccioni, letter to G. Sprovieri, 4 September 1913, rpt in Gambillo 228. 
^Marinetti, La fotografia futurista. Teoria e invenzione futurista 197. 
^Nietzsche 491. 

""Marinetti, Fondazione e manifesto del futurismo. Teoria e invenzione futurista 9. 
'Schnapp 79. 
^Bragaglia 9. 
Ha 19. 



^Moholy-Nagy 78. 

fragaglia 29. 

'"Comte 382-83. 

"Alighieri, Purgatorio X, 94-96. 

'^Quoted by Nàgele 222. 

'^Marinetti, Distruzione della sintassi — Immaginazione senza fili — Parole in libertà. 
Teoria e invenzione futurista 68. 

'''Marinetti, Distruzione della sintassi^mmaginazione senza fili— Parole in libertà. 
Teoria e invenzione futurista 73. 

"Bragaglia 29. 

'^Bragaglia 29. 

^^}sA&x\x\q\X\, Fondazione e manifesto del futurismo. Teoria e invenzione futurista 10. 



62 



CARTE ITALIANE 



'^Sontag 160. 
'fragaglia 29. 



Works Cited 



Alighieri, Dante. La divina commedia. Ed. Tommaso di Salvo. Bologna: Zanichelli, 

1987. 
Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt. Trans. Harry John. New York: 

Schochen Books, 1968. 
Bragaglia, Anton Giulio. Fotodinamismo futurista. Turin: Einaudi, 1970. 
Comte, Auguste. A General View ofPositivism. Trans. J. H. Bridges. London: Rout- 

ledge, 1908. Excerpt rpt. in What is Art? Aesthetic Theoryfrom Plato to Tolstoy. 

Ed. Alexander Sesonske. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1965. 379-383. 
Gambillo, Drudi. Archivi del futurismo. Rome: De Luca, 1958. 
Marinetti, F. T. Teoria e invenzione futurista. Ed. Luciano De Maria. Milan: Mon- 
dadori, 1968. 
Moholy-Nagy, Làszló. "From pigment to light." Photographers on Photography: A 

Criticai Anthology. Ed. Nathan Lyons. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice, 1966. 
Nàgele, Rainer. " The Eyes of the Skull: Walter Benjamin's Aesthetics." The Aesthetics 

of the Criticai Theorists: Studies on Benjamin, Adomo, Marcuse and Habermas. 

Ed. Ronald Roblin. Problems in Contemporary Philosophy 23. Lewiston, NY: 

Mellon, 1990. 206-243. 
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will to Power. Trans. Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale. 

New York: Vintage Books, 1968. 
Schnapp, Jeffrey. "Marinetti's Zang Tumb Tuuum." Stanford Italian Review 5.1 

(Spring 1985): 75-92. 
Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Doubleday, 1989. 



Futurism's Construction of a Phallic National 

Identity 



Italian Futurism is known best for proclamations such as: 

vogliamo liberare questo paese dalla sua fetida cancrena di professori, 
d'archeologhi, di ciceroni e d'antiquarii. . . , Date fuoco agli scaffali delle 
biblioteche! . . . Sviate il corso dei canali, per inondare i musei! . . . Oh la gioia 
di veder galleggiare alla deriva, lacere e stinte su quelle acque, le vecchie tele 
gloriose!. . . Impugnate i piccioni, le scuri, i martelli e demolite, demolite senza 
pietà le città venerate! {Fondazione e manifesto del futurismo. Teoria e 
invenzione futurista 7-13).' 

However, the Italian Futurists' project was not one solely of destruction, for in 
Guerra sola igiene del mondo, Marinetti specifically rejects the characterization 
of Futurism as a movement that was oppositional merely for the sake of being 
antagonistic. 

The Futurist project to "ricostruire," rather than to destroy, marks the 
starting point of this paper. In particular, I will be addressing the extent to which 
such a project of identit>' fabrication constructs itself in relation to a notion of /a 
patria, and how such a construction of an ideal national self, which, as we will 
see, is ideally a Futurist self, must be staged on the exterior of the male body.^ 
It is useful to keep in mind the psychoanalytic observation that identity is 
fictional rather than imitative. Since "Identification is never simply mimetic but 
involves a strateg}' of wish-fulfillment" (Butler 334), identity sholdbe understood 
as a performative enactment of a fantasy. 

For the Futurists, that fantasy entails either the repudiation of the feminine, 
its incorporation or appropriation, or its masculinization.^ As such, the ideal, 
national self of the Futurists is explicitly gendered as masculine. However, it is 
the instability of national and gender identity in Futurist nationalist rhetoric that 
interests me. The very notion of la patria discloses a gender ambiguity in which 
the motherland, Italy, figures as a surrogate Phallic Mother who both mirrors the 
national subject's self-identity while, at the same time, representing othemess. 

One of the centrai Futurist enterprises was the construction of a new 



63 



54 CARTE ITALIANE 



subjectivity appropriate to the Futurist vision for a new Italy . This "nuova Italia" 
would be the antithesis of "la città di Paralisi," which is characterized by 
cowardliness, sluggishness and moribundity in Marinetti's manifesto Uccidiamo 
il chiaro di luna (TIF 14-26). The "qualities" that the Futurists purpose for ideal 
Italians are, not surprisingly, the characteristics of the Futurists themselves. In 
their attempt to create a new "group-mind," that is, a new self-image for the 
Italian people, the Futurists are indeed attempting to reinvent the Italian identity, 
excluding ali the vices associated with a weak and decadent unified Italy such 
as "passatismo" and "parlamentarismo," and substituting in their stead Futurist 
virtues.'' 

To the extent that the objective of the Italian Futurists is to distance 
themselves from the qualities, history and surroundings that typified the Italy 
that the Futurists despise, the Futurists' nationalism difiFers from other nineteenth- 
century and twentieth-century European nationalist impulses, including their 
own Italian predecessor.' The unification of Italy in 1861 was the result of a 
"second wave" of nationalist movements which, according to Benedict Anderson, 
emphasized the genealogical justification and identity of the nation (195). As 
such, these "second wave" movements stressedcontinuity and historical tradition 
as opposed to the newness that had characterized the "first wave" of nationalist 
movements which had originated in the "New World" (Anderson 187-206) 
Interestingly, Futurism's nationalist rhetoric, which emphasizes a radicai break 
from the past, resembles more this "first wave" of nationalist movements. 

Futurism' s refusai of the past is exemplified by Marinetti ' s address to Italian 
students in Guerra sola igiene del mondo: 

Oggi più che mai la parola Italia deve dominare sulla parola Libertà. Tutte le 
libertà, eccettuata quella di essere vigliacchi, pacifisti, neutralisti. Tutti 
progressi nel cerchio della nazione. Cancelliamo la gloria romana con una 
gloria italiana più grande. Combattiamo dunque la cultura germanica, non già 
per difendere la cultura latina, ma combattiamo tutte e due queste culture 
ugualmente nocive, per difendere il genio creatore italiano d'oggi. (TIF 336) 

Despite this forward-looking focus, and even as Marinetti promotes an anti- 
traditional, iconoclastie vision for the nation, he simultaneously reinvokes 
tradition by championing a conventionally-gendered ideal Italian male whose 
masculinity must be fervently militant.* However, even within this militant 
masculinity, an instability lurks which questions the veiy definition ofmasculinity. 
For the Futurists, the model fo this ideal Italian male is, of course, the ideal 
Futurist. Marinetti's definition of Futurism in Lettera aperta al futurista Mac 
Delmarle elucidates the gender prejudice upon which Futurism is constructed: 
"Noi professiamo un nazionalismo antitradizionale che ha per base il vigore 



FUTURISM'S CONSTRUCTION OF A PHALLIC NATIONAL IDENTITY 65 



inesauribile del sangue italiano" (TIF 92).'' Here, Marinetti equates Futurism 
and its particular brand of nationalism vvith the vigor of Italian blood. Vigor, 
while not a quality exclusive to men, connotes a traditionally masculine quality. 
As such, Futurism and its brand of renegade nationalism hinge on the supposed 
inherent masculinity that runs through the Italian male's veins. 

With his pithy proclamation about "il vigore inesauribile del sangue 
italiano," Marinetti' s fonvard-looking nationalism reveals its roots in a 
conservatively gendered politicai rhetoric. In addition, Marinetti ' s confi guration 
of the ideal Italian becomes inseparable from that of the ideal Futurist. Even if 
other Italian nationalist groups also espouse the idea of an Italian essence, 
namely, an italianità, the Futurists' conception of "Italianness" is inseparable 
from a notion of virile masculinity. However, as we will see, the Futurists strong 
emphasis on masculinity intimates the weaknesses that lurk in that masculinity 
and in that sanguine vim. 

The Futurist painter Umberto Boccioni identifies one such weakness when 
he laments, 

Disgraziatamente l'italiano, che sa giuocare la vita per una femmina, è 
incapace di imporsi una disciplina, un amore ideale lontano, di concepire 
astrattamente il dovere, la patria, e la solidarità.^ 

Boccioni's observation alludes to the incongruous behavior of the very Italians 
upon whose vigorous blood Futurism relies. It also discloses Futurism' s 
misog>'ny for, as Boccioni points out, while the average Italian is capable of 
making the ultimate sacrifice for "una femmina," he is incapable of making 
sacrifices for more abstract, and, it is implied, more deserving causes. As such, 
Boccioni seems to have some reservations about "il vigore inesauribile del 
sangue italiano." 

Ironically, Boccioni mightbe addressing this criticism to Marinetti himself. 
For although Marinetti exhibits the qualities of the virile and militant Futurist 
in his "love manual" Come si seducono le donne (1918), he unwittingly reveals 
himself to be also the Italian who, if he does not go so far as to "giuocare la vita 
per una femmina," will at least wait twelve hours hidden under a bed in order 
to get her alone. In doing so, Marinetti propels Futurism and "il vigore 
inesauribile del sangue italiano" into farce, which depends on just such ludicrous 
and improbable situations (Abrams 29). However, while it may appear farcical. 
Come si seducono le donne is a strategie military and Futurist tactic. 

Although Marinetti at times resembles more a pathetic Don Juan than a 
virile Futurist, he also invokes but reverses the Ovidian maxim "Miliat omnis 
amans, et habet sua castra Cupido" (Amores 1.9, v. I). For Marinetti, the maxim 



66 CARTE ITALIANE 



should read not "every lover is a soldier" but rather, "every soldier is a lover." 
The analogy between soldier and lover is not just coincidental, but is necessary, 
for, as Ève Kosofsky Sedgwick observes, the military is the space in which the 
most intimate male bonding is prescriptive and homosexuality is proscriptive 
(Sedgwick, 1986).^ As such, it is with regards to "Cupid's camp" that it is mst 
imperative to theatricalize one's heterosexuality since the need to appear strong 
militarily entails the risk of appearing weak by exposing the homoerotic bonds 
between men.'° Therefore, for Marinetti, while every lover may be a soldier, 
every soldier must be a heterosexual lover. 

Paradoxically, it is through the theatricalization of Marinetti 's amorous 
conquests in "Cupid's own field" that Come si seducono le donne discloses the 
threat of effeminization or homosexuality; it reveals this threat in its very attempi 
to combat it. To ward off such "evils" as effeminization or homosexuality, virile 
ornamentation such as spurs are employed. However, virile ornamentation as 
well has an undesired effect. When virility depends on fashion to afTirm its 
presence, those fashion accessories exposes virility as an exterior mask which the 
Futurist performs or wears as a costume. 

Writing on the eighteenth century "renunciation of fashion by men" Kaja 
Silverman points out that at that time women began to be the prime articulators 
of their families' wealth. While women began to dress to impress, men began 
to culturally "renown fashion." Nevertheless, male subjectivity, similar to 
female subjectivity, finds its primary libidinal pleasure in exhibitionism; only 
secondarily does is fmd pleasure in voyeurism (Silverman 142). The male 
subject, as feminists have argued, gravitates toward scopophilia as a means of 
disavowing its own castration anxiety . However, when the male subject becomes 
the object of its own scopophilic gaze through a concem for fashion, that 
fashionable project avows and therefore discloses the anxiety about castration, 
which is an anxiet>' about the male subject' s virility. 

Fashion, therefore, is important for the staging of both Futurism's cultural 
distinction of nationality and masculinity. Giacomo Balla in his Manifesto 
futurista del vestito da uomo offers an example in which the male body becomes 
the space for the staging of both." Balla's manifesto on men's clothing 
seemingly responds to the question Futurists have posed for themselves, namely, 
"What's a Futurist to wear?" If such a concern for fashion reveals the weaknesses 
in the virile Futurist subjectivity, the threat of this effeminizing possibility is 
allayed by the ancillary position it holds within greater Futurist concerns. The 
manifesto begins, "Noi fiituristi, nei brevi intervalli del grande lavoro di 
rinnovamento, discutevamo di ogni cosa, come è nostra abitudine" (Balla 144). 
Yet, according to the manifesto that follows, men's clothing is clearly part of, if 
not essential to, the Futurists' struggles for renewal. As Balla writes. 



FUTURISM'S CONSTRUCTION OF A PHALLIC NATIONAL IDENTITY 67 



For quite some time now we have been convinced that today's clothes ... are 
stili atrociously passéist. . . . Our crowded streets, our theatres and cafes are 
ali imbued with a depressing funereal tonality, because clothes are made only 
to reflect the gloomy and dismal moods of today's passeists. (Balla 132) 

For Balla, while clothes "reflect" an interior state and therefore project or imitate 
a pre-existing interiorit}\ appropriate Futurist attire can alter that interior state. 

As a result, Balla seems to suggest that by merely rest>iing that exterior 
through fashion, the interior, namely, the very subjectivity of the Italian male, 
can be radically transformed as well. For the Futurists, it would seem that, as the 
saying goes, the suit indeed "makes the man," that is, the interior identity is 
brough into being by exterior ornamentation. '^ Balla's manifesto discloses how 
subjectivity is displayed onto the body, which in turn suggests that the surface 
is net an efiFect of an essential nature or of a cause originating from within the 
body. I would like to suggest that Balla's reference to the "brief intervals" from 
which emerge the Futurists' concem for fashion, might figure as the fissures or 
gaps in the Futurists' ideal male subjectivity. 

While the Futurists value inconsistencies, in as much as the latter reflect 
Futurism's embracement of change and dynamism in general, inconsistencies 
that undermine Futurism's construction of an ideal Italian masculinity present 
a problem for the Futurist agenda. Such problems surface in Marinetti's Come 
si seducono le donne. As Marinetti and his lover discuss the spurs that he wore 
during their lovemaking, here again what the Futurist wears is paramount to his 
Futurist virility. Curiously, while the spurs attribute bellicose qualities to 
Marinetti, who, thanks to them, is "pieno di guerra" during love-making, 
Marinetti also declares that a woman without a man with spurs is an empty 
revolver (Marinetti 1918, 56-61). The spurs, therefore, assume phallic potential 
in the lovemaking, both for the man and the women. Marinetti elaborates, 
stating that "Una bella donna non può avere altro amante che un soldato armato 
in tutti i modi che viene dal fronte e sta per ripartire" (Marinetti 1981, 59). It 
is implied that anything less virile than a soldier with ali his bellicose accoutrements 
will not only invoke Italy's effeminate and antiquated legacy, but vvill prove a 
poor lover. Once again, the clothes articulate not only the body but the spirit of 
the man inside them. 

From Balla's manifesto, it is clear that the man whose wardrobe the 
Futurists want to revamp is the passeist's. His wardrobe is described as: 

(a) the timidity and symmetry of colours, colours which are arranged in 
wishy-washy pattems of idiotic spots and stripes; 

(b) ali forms of lifeiess attire which make man feel tired, depressed, miserable 



68 



CARTE ITALIANE 



and sad, and which restrict movement prcxiucing a triste wanness; 

(e) so-called "good taste" and harmony, which weaken the soul and take the 

spring out of the step (Balla 133). 

In delineating just how the Futurist male body is to be clothed, (and how it is not 
to be), eniphasis is placed on clothing that is "allegrissssssssssimo" (Balla 145) 
and "daring clothes with brilliant colours and dynamic lines" (Balla 132). 
Further requisitions demanded of the Futurist clothing: 

We want Futurist clothes to be comfortable and practical/ Dynamic/ Aggressive/ 
Shocking/ Energetic/ Violent/ Flying (i.e. giving the idea of flying, rising and 
running)/ Peppy/ Joyful/ Illuminating (in order to have light in the rain)/ 
Phosphorescent/ Lit by electric lamps (Balla 132). 

If these qualities are not enough to convey the masculine (not efeminate!) nature 
of this concern for dress, Futurist clothes should also "encourage industriai 
activity . . . [and] Use materials with forceful MUSCULAR colours" (Balla 132). 

It is not insignificant that in Balla's manuscript, these characteristics are 
written so as to form the outline or silhouette of Balla's design for a Futurist suit. 
The disposition of the words in relation to the design of the suit further 
underscores how the Futurist identity is enunciated on the body's surface, 
moving from the outside inward. 

In addition, while Futurist clothes ought to denote productivity and muscular 
forcefulness, the fact that they ought also "provide Constant and novel enjoyment 
for our [male] bodies" (Balla 132) seems to align Balla's manifesto with a 
Foucaultian aesthetic of non-genital pleasure. Non-genital pleasures are in 
sharp contras! to Marinetti's genital objective in Come si seducono le donne. 
Moreover, non-genital pleasure suggests the possibility of non-heterosexual 
pleasure aswell.'^ 

Also conflicting with what one might expect from the virile Futurist, Balla's 
Futurist dress-code allows for variation: "Pattern changes should be available 
by pneumatic dispatch, in this way anyone may change his clothes according to 
the needs of mood" (133). So even though the Futurist's clothes, like the Futurist 
himself should be dynamic, aggressive, etc, the possibility of mutation should 
not be shunned. "Available modifications will include: Loving/ Arrogant/ 
Persuasive/ Diplomatic/ Unitonal/ Multitonal/ Shaded/ Polychrome/ Perfumed" 
(133). While it may be possible to characterize these alternate qualities as 
"masculine," and while the possibility for pattern changes are justified by the 
Futurist propensity for spontaneity, read against other Futurist proclamations, 
which disdain vacillation, it would seem that the Futurist has a license for mood 
swings that is repugnant in the non-Futurist. In Uccidiamo il chiaro di luna. 



FUTURISM'S CONSTRUCTION OF A PHALLIC NATIONAL IDENTITY 69 



Marinetti writes, 

Che mai pretendono le donne, i sedentari, gl'invalidi, gli ammalati, e tutti i 
consiglieri prudenti? Alla loro vita vacillante, rotta da lugubri agonie, da sonni 
tremebondi e da incubi grevi, noi preferiamo la morte violenta e glorifichiamo 
come la sola che sia degna dell'uomo, animale da preda. {TIF 15) 

If variety is called for in order to avoid stasis, it also allows for the sort of 
vacillation and catering to "the needs of mood," that the Futurist despises in 
others but apparently sanctions in himself. 

As a result, the Futurist manifesto on men's clothing unwittingly evidences 
the fragile construction of masculinity, which, as Barbara Spackman has 
demonstrated, threatens to not be virile at ali. Yet, in addition to Spackman 's 
insight regarding the fear that "given half a chance, boys will be girls" (91), and 
likewise, the analogous argument that, without the proper clothes, a Futurist 
might be indistinguishable from a non-Futurist, it would seem that even with his 
clothes, it is difficult to teli the Futurist from the non-Futurist. 

The same argument that has been made about sexual identity applies to the 
Futurists and their figuration of an ideal Italian. As Judith Butler purports 
regarding sexual identity, the markings of gender are naively misinterpreted as 
the marks of an anatomically essential category called "sex." Similarly, the 
identities of both the Futurist and the Italian, at a closer look, reveal themselves 
to have no essence; indeed, the Futurst and the Italian are constructed from the 
outside inward. 

I wish now to look at the erotic investment suggested by the Futurist 
configuration of a nationalist self-identity as well as the Futurist construction of 
la patria. To examine the Futurists' erotic investment in nationalism, it is 
revealing to look at Marinetti 's defmitions regarding la patria. In these 
passages, we will fmd a gender ambiguity that foregrounds the male body, often 
convoluting it with la patria. 

InAl di là del Comunismo,^^ Marinetti writes, 

II cuore dell'uomo rompe nella sua espansione circolare il piccolo cerchio 
soffocatore della famgilia, per giungere fino agli orli estremi della Patria, dove 
sente palpitare i suoi connazionali di frontiera, come i nervi periferici del 
proprio corpo. {TIF AIA) 

Here, rather than emphasizing la patria as a feminine body as it has been 
traditionally figured, Marinetti suggests an image in which la patria fiinctions 
as a physical space that allows for the corporeal union between "pulsating" male 
bodies. It is not insignificant that the man's heart breaks free of the institution 



70 CARTE ITALIANE 



of the heterosexual family to be able to feel, via a nationalistic discourse, male 
bodies not unlike his own. The fact that these bodies bear a striking resemblance 
to his own, indeed are like his own body ("come i nervi periferici del proprio 
corpo"), underscores the narcissistic quality of these homoerotic, nationalist 
aspirations in which the desired other is indistinguishable from the self. 

Lynn Hunt suggests in Eroticism and the Body Poli tic that the body politic 
is often figured as a female body that is necessary to connect men: "the point of 
triangulation or exchange that enables men to relate to one another in social and 
politicai organizations" (13). As such, female corporeality then serves both to 
facilitate and to displace, if not to disavow, the desire between men. Yet, as is 
evident in Marinetti's definition, the male body is not disavowed but is, on the 
contrary, quite present. The female body of la patria becomes conflated with the 
male body of the patriotic subject as "i nervi periferici" of the male body 
suggestively parallel the "estremi orli della Patria." Already a hybrid, la patria, 
etymologically "la terra dei padri" incorporates "il padre" into "la terra," or vice 
versa, semantically performing both a feminization of the masculine and a 
masculinization of the feminine. In his discussion of this androgynous entity, 
Marinelli however reasserls the masculine body. Again the male body then 
becomes the space through and on which the cultural distinction of nationality 
is slaged. 

La patria also functions as a fetish upon whose existence the national 
subject 's possession of the Phallus depends. For as Marinelli declares, "Negare 
la patria equivale a isolarsi, castrasi, diminuirsi, denigrarsi, suicidarsi" {TIF 
475).'' To deny the homeland is an ad equal to self-castralion. Marinelli also 
offers this interpretation: 

La patria rappresenta per noi il massimo allargamento della generosità 
dell'individuo straripante in cerchio su tutti gii esseri umani similia lui. 
(AdldC 474) 

Here, the feminine body of the patria is figured first as an extension of the 
masculine self, and then as one with that self As such, the body of the national 
subject and the female body of la patria are superimposed. The nationalist, 
therefore, must defend his own bodily borders as well as her terreslrial confines. 
Furthermore, keeping in mind Marinetti's quintessential Fulurist, Mafarka, and 
his physical attributes (an eleven meler penis), the "massimo prolungamento 
dell'individuo" is clearly both la patria and the penis (TIF 253-266). 

In Come si seducono le donne, we have seen how the Fulurisls confiate the 
penis with the Phallus. As Lacan argues such a confusion is almost obligatory 
albeit fallacious: 



FUTURISM'S CONSTRUCTION OF A PHALLIC NATIONAL IDENTITY 71 



The price of the subject's access to the world of desire is that the real organ must 
be marked at the imaginary level with this bar, so that its symbol can take up 
its place as the signifier of this very point where the signifier is lacking. (Lacan 
in Mitchell 117) 

That the Futurists confuse the penis with the Phallus is significant, for as we will 
see below, the nationalist's castration, the nation's castration and the subject's 
"personal" castration are ali related. 

What is most obvious about the language used in the context of Futurism's 
nationalism is that the relationship betvveen one's countr>' and oneself is figured 
as famihar, and at times, incestuous. In the case of Italy, la patria is an 
androg>'nous matemal figure and the nationalist subject is the son/suitor. The 
Futurists also recognize that this matemal figure is castrated. As a body, she is 
missing vital parts: "una Italia mutila, ancora una volta rassegnata nella sua 
mutilazione. Non c'è Venezia, non c'è Istria, non c'è Fiume.' '* 

That Italy had been mutilated, castrated, was in fact the complaint of Italian 
irredentism. By desiring to return to Italy her irredenta and thereby restore her 
status as a non-mutilated matemal body, that is, as the Phallic Mother, the 
Futurists along with other irredentists demonstrate how the castration of the 
national subject and that of la patria are intertwined. In a letter to Papini, 
Marinetti makes the explicit connection between an "Italia futurista," and his 
own castration: "È più facile strapparmi i testicoli che la fede in una Italia 
futurista, grande, geniale, prima nel mondo, inesauribilmente ricca di genii."'^ 
La patria allows the individuai to offset his castration, provided he restores the 
missing parts to the maternal body. Ideally, Italy would then be restored to her 
status as Phallic Mother and an Italia futurista is an Italy with "with balls" (or 
with a penis). 

Since in Marinetti 's definition of la patria, the male body and la patria are 
closely related, the nationalist must identify with Italy and her castration. Such 
identification is necessar>' for the deployment of nationalist and patriotic 
rhetoric. It is for this reason that Benedict Anderson' s theorizing of the 
importance of imagination in nationalism is significant, for without identification, 
without the notion of commonality, of italianità, nationlist discourse, like the 
Phallus, deflates. 

Yet, paradoxically, the national subject must also refiise or disavow such a 
disturbing identification with /opa/r/a's castration, for as the mutilated feminine 
body, Italy is the sign of sexual difference which evokes his own castration 
anxiety. The irredentist feels anxiety not just because he fears castration, but 
because he, in as much as he identifies with the mutilated motherland, has been 
castrated as well. War against Austria can then figured as the ultimate Oedipal 
conflict, in which the patriot combats to restore the Phallus to the maternal body, 



72 CARTE ITALIANE 



as well as secure his own access to it. 

With war, however, comes sacrifice. Anxiety about the disfigurement of the 
male body emerges in Come si seducono le donne where Marinetti seems fearful 
that Itahan women will no longer desire the Italian male body mutilated by war. 
This preoccupation compels the narrating voice to redirect its address from its 
putatively male readership to a female one. These female readers are instructed, 
one might dare say, beseeched, to be altracted to this mutilated but, presumably 
no longer castrated, male body: 

Donne, dovete preferire ai maschi intatti più o meno sospetti di vigliaccheria, 
i gloriosi mutilati! Amateli ardentmente! I loro baci Futuristi vi daranno dei 
figli d'acciaio" (Marinetti 1918, 146). 

Echoing Balla's manifesto on clothing, the identity of the Futurist soldier is 
articulated from the outside in, and physical mutilation is the sign of inner 
virility. Ideally, war would function as a sort of plastic surgery that, by alteri ng 
the surface, would give proof of the Futurist that is supposedly beneath the skin: 

Donne fate che ogni italiano dica partendo: Voglio offirie al mio ritorno una 
bella ferita degna di lei! ... Voglio che la battaglia mi riplasmi il corpo per 
lei! . . . Voglio essere modificato dalle granate e dalle baionette nemiche per 
lei! (Marinetti 1981, 147) 

Again the Futurist soldier's identity is inscribed onto his body which, as a sort 
of text, impersonates and incorporates (literally, takes into the body) that 
identity. 

This preoccupation with possible loss or mutilation is attributable to the fact 
that, similar to the Lacanian subject who knows that "'having' only fimctions at 
the price of loss and 'being' as an effect of division" (Rose in Mitchell 40), the 
national subject can only secure the Phallus at the price or risk of bodily 
mutilation, that is, by another sort of castration. Whether at the level of personal 
subjectivity or national subjectivity, identity is secured through a loss, or 
mutilation in the case of the Futurist soldier. This fact reiterates the psychoan- 
alytic insight that "normal" male subjectivity is constructed on castration 
anxiety. The nationalist must risk mutilation in order to maintain the split from 
the Other, for without such a di vision, the identity of the self, and the nation, is 
non-existent. Cari Carrà insightfully notes just this when he writes, "Rinnegare 
il nazionalismo vuol dire assoggettarsi al nazionalismo d'altri."'^ 

The nationalist's sacrifice for the homeland can be said to fiinction as a 
repetition of the loss upon which ali identity is founded. At the same time, 
sacrifice is a means of disavowing that loss. As such, the homeland defended. 



FUTURISM'S CONSTRUCTION OF A PHALLIC NATIONAL IDENTITY 73 



restored to its un-mutilated state, can then assume the role of a fetish which, as 
the site of both the denial of sexual difference (the denial of castration) and the 
continuous reminder of sexual difference, depends on a doublé and conflicting 
reading. The ambiguous or hybrid gendering of la patria then complements the 
homeland's role as fetish. 

As Benedict Anderson has argued, nationalism identities an "imagined 
community." Although the Futurists imagine a virile, militant masculinity for 
themselves and for the nation, they also undermine that masculinity by 
emphasizing its performative and ornamentai nature. Furthermore, the 
achievement of the national communit>^ that the Futurists desire necessitates not 
only the staging of nationalism on the nationalist's own phallic body but 
demands that la patria figure as a phallic matemal body. 
Carolyn Daly 

Comparative Literature Program 
University of Southern California 



Notes 

'From here on abbreviateci as TIF. 

^I am indebted to Professor Lucia Re of UCLA for calling to my attention the 
privileging and objectification of the male body in Marinetti's texts during a graduate 
seminar on Futurism. 

^Blum and Re delivered papers dealing with Futurism's attitudes toward women at 
a conference on Futurism held at UCLA, March 10-12, 1993. Also see Cinzia Blum, 
"Rhetorical Strategies and Gender in Marinetti's Futurist Manifesto," Italica 67 (1990): 
196-21 1; and Lucia Re, "Futurism and YQxnxmsm" Annali d'italianistica 1 (1989); 253- 
272. 

"•in addition to the evidence in the Futurist manifestos themselves, for Italy's 
national inferiority complex, see R. J. B. Bosworth, Italy, die Least ofGreat Powers: 
Italian Foreign PolicyBefore the First World War (London: Cambridge UP, 1970). Also 
Richard Drake, Byzantium for Rome: The Politics of Nostalgia in Umbertian Italy, 1878- 
1900 (Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina P, 1980). 

*For example, the nationalism of Enrico Corradini, the eariy twentieth century 
politicai and literary figure and his politicai party. Associazione nazionalità italiana, 
invoke the m>1hology of the Roman empire and Italy's past glory to be reclaimed. See 
Drake, 187. Also Emilio Gentile, "Il futurismo e la politica dal nazionalismo modernista 
al fascismo 1909-1920," Futurismo, Cultura e Politica, ed. Renzo De Felice (Turin: 
Fondazione Giovanni Agnelli, 1988) 105-159. Regarding Futurism's distinctly forward- 
looking nationalism. Gentile writes, "Questo nazionalismo non aveva gli occhi rivolti al 
passato per rifiutare il presente, ma guardava al futuro; aveva una propria imagine-mito 
della 'vita moderna' e considerava l'industializzazione un processo inevitabile per 



74 CARTE ITALIANE 



consolidare la nazione e accrescere la sua potenza" (107). 

*It must be recognized that the ideal masculinity that the Futurists celebrate marks 
a departure fromthe profile of the languid, depressed, neutral Italian male who the 
Futurists disdain. However, Futurist anti-tradtionalism is at times accompagned by a less 
than iconoclastie sexual politics. See Re (1989) and Blum (1988). Also Ciniza Blum, 
"The Scarred Womb of the Futurist Woman ," Carte Italiane 8 (1986-87): 14-30. 

'Also referred in Gentile, 111. 

^Umberto Boccioni, Opere complete (Foligno: F. Campitelli, 1927) 8-9, quoted in 
Gentile, 113. 

^Sedgwick is mentioned in Barbara Spackman, "The Fascist Rhetoric of Virility," 
Stanford Italian Review 8 (1990): 95-96. See Sedgwick, Between Men: English 
Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia UP, 1985) 83-96. 

'°Alice Yaeger Kaplan also suggests that military comradery poses a threat to a 
stable definition of masculinity by permitting activities usually off-limits to masculinity 
to typify masculine behavior in the particular content of the military. Kaplan, Reproduction 
ofBanality (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1986) 11. 

"Due to the difficulty in reading Balla's manuscript as reprinted in Mario Bulzoni, 
ed.. Ricostruzione futurista dell'universo (Rome: 1968), I also refer the English 
translation of Balla's manifesto: Futurist Manifest ofMen 's Clothing in The Documents 
of20th Century Art, ed. Umbro Apollonio, trans. Robert Brain et al. (New York: Viking 
P, 1970) 132-134. 

'^Silverman contends, "Clothing is a necessary condition of subjectivity — that in 
articulating the body, it simultaneously articulates the psyche" in "Fragments of a 
Fashionable Discourse," Studies in Entertainment, ed. Tania Modleski (Bloomington: 
Indiana UP, 1986) 147. Silverman also refers to Freud's similar conviction, see Sigmund 
Freud, The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological H^orks ofSignnmd Freud, 
trans. James Strachey (London: Hogarth, 1953-1966) v. DC, 26. 

'^Winifred Woodhuil, "Sexuality, Power and the Question of Rape,'' Feminism and 
Foucault: Reflections on Resistance, eds. Irene Diamond et al. (Boston: Northeastern UP, 
1988). "According to Foucault, the preferred strategy is to 'desexualize' sexuality by 
multiplying and diffusing pleasures, in order cancel the now-obsolete understanding of 
it as a circumscribed domain fundamentally opposed to power and the law" (169). 
Woodhuil refers to "The Confession of the ¥\csh," Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews 
and Other Writings 1972-1977, ed. Colin Gordon (New York: Pantheon, 1980) 194-228. 

'^Here on abbreviated as AdldC. 

"Other references by Marinetti to castration in relation to la patria include the 
following from Guerra sola igiene del mondo: "Oggi, in Italia, passatisti è sinonimo di 
neutralisti, pacifisti ed eunuchi, mentre futuristi è sinonimo di anti-neutralisti violenti" 
{TIF 332). 

'*Paolo Orano, La Dalmazia è italiana. Sarà italiana\ published August 12, 1917; 
quoted in Gentile, 127-128. 

'^Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, letter to Papini, October 1913, Carte Papini, (Florence: 
Fondazione Primo Conti); quoted in Gentile, 116. 



FUTURISM'S CONSTRUCTION OF A PHALLIC NATIONAL IDENTITY 75 

'^Carlo Carrà, letter to Soffici, 12 June 1913, Archivi del futurismo, ed. M. Drudi 
Gambillo and T. Fiori (Rome: De Luca, 1959-1962) voi. I, 217; quoted in Gentile, 110, 
n. 15. 

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Sedgwick, Ève Kosofsky. Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial 

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